By Zoe Martina Siegel

Recently, a campaign in Canada has been pushing for an opt-out system for organ donation – under such a policy, consent is presumed unless an individual has specifically opted out. Bill Barrable, who was the chief executive officer of British Columbia Transplant from 1994 through 2009, has recently voiced his concern about presumed consent policy.

His research has revealed that, of those countries with presumed consent laws, only three have higher donor rates than Canada: Austria, Belgium, and Spain. Additionally, his findings indicate that these countries’ high rates of donation are not due to presumed consent policy, but to very high mortality rates. For example, Spain has a mortality rate from motor vehicle accidents that is more than 50% greater than Canada’s. This translates into a higher number of individuals who are suitable to be donors.
These higher rates also have a great deal to do with the health of these countries on the whole and the number of physicians.

Barrable doesn’t believe switching to a presumed consent policy will significantly increase the number of available organs for Canadians. For one thing, Canadians have historically been very generous when it comes to signing up to become an organ donor. The Anatomical Gift Act provides Canadians with legal protection to have their recorded wishes upheld in the face of objections by next of kin.

Barrable believes the best option for increasing organ supply in Canada is by honoring the rights of donors by adhering to their recorded wishes.

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