By Kaitlyn Schaeffer

While organ donation is viewed by Canadians as an essential component of a well-functioning health care system, and while 95% of the population supports organ donation, only 50%-60% are willing to donate. These rates translate into only 16 organ donators for every million people in Canada, about half that of other countries like the United States, Spain, and Australia. One of the greatest contributing factors to these lower rates of donation is “ignorance of a loved one’s wishes;” the family, or other surrogate decision makers, failed to adequately discuss the issue with the patient. The Canadian medical community is stressing how important it is for people to make their wishes known and have these discussions. “Although every one of us has the potential to be an organ and/or tissue donor, on average a very small percentage of hospital deaths occur in circumstances that will permit organ donation,” Dr. Sonny Dhanani, Chief Medical Officer of Donation for Trillium Gift of Life Network, said. “It is absolutely critical that in every single situation where donation may be possible, family members are offered the opportunity to honor the wishes of their loved one.” In order to increase rates of donation, Canada has begun emphasizing the importance of discussing organ and tissue donation as part of proper end of life care. The medical community has also stressed the great need for organs across the country (4000 people are currently on the waiting list) and have attempted to reframe an act of donation as simply “the right thing to do,” instead of, as some people seem to view it, an act of charity.

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