By Caroline Song
Kelly Grant, a health reporter for The Globe and Mail, has recently published the article “Nova Scotia eye making organ donation automatic,” which looks at the Nova Scotia governments’ move towards presumed consent in deceased organ donation. The Health Minister Leo Glavine hopes to work in concert with the deputy health minister to run a public consultation online to gauge Nova Scotia’s response to a presumed consent law. The proposed consultation in Nova Scotia will take several months. A “reverse onus” law means individuals are all presumed donors unless noted otherwise. Individuals must register their denial so that their organs are not used after their death. Those in favor of presumed consent believe the movement will increase the number of available donations whereas opponents state that the law removes the right to control what happens to a body after death and may not even lead to an increase in donations.
According to a report released in February by the Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI), in 2012 Canada had 15.5 deceased donors per million. France, Italy, and the United States have a rate of 20-30 per million. Spain has a rate higher than 30 per million and operates under a presumed consent law. However, Spain’s success is not proof that presumed consent works. It should be noted that within the presumed consent laws, the family still has the final say. There is some issue in regarding what a family member constitutes, because Nova Scotia has previously passed legislation barring family members from blocking donations if the deceased donor has signed a card prior to their death. Despite the legislation passing, the government is still trying to figure out the precise definition of a family member.
Prince Edward Island also looked into a presumed consent law in 2012, but is no longer pursuing one. Ontario had a citizens’ panel in 2007 that rejected the idea of presumed consent. Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews has stated that her province will not be revisiting the matter. Alberta’s Health Minister Fred Horne has launched an online donor registry that is voluntary. However, Horne is not looking into presumed consent but rather gauging how informed the populace is about donation.
According to CIHI, in 2012, 4,432 individuals were waiting for transplants with a majority of those needing a kidney and of those individuals 230 died on the waiting list.
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