Make gift of life easier to give

This is a repost of an editorial from the Waterloo Region Record found at the TheRecord.com. I have added links for the Canadian Institute for Health Information and the Trillium Gift of Life Network.

Make gift of life easier to give

It is heartbreaking to know that hundreds of ailing Canadians die each year hoping and waiting in vain for a kidney, liver, heart or other organ transplant that never comes.

But it is infuriating to realize that many of those people could have survived, but died needlessly, because thousands of life-saving organs from eligible donors are going unused.

You’d think by now this country would have the most efficient system for organ donation it possibly could. You’d be wrong, according to a new report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information. The problem, at least in terms of what is being missed, isn’t a lack of potential donors. The weakness comes from a health-care system that means well but is inefficiently organized when it comes to identifying potential donors and obtaining organ donations.

The most arresting finding by the institute is that each year the medical system is able to obtain transplants from only one third of eligible and potential donors under the age of 70 — just over 500 people each year. The other two thirds of possible donors — about 1,050 — are never properly identified by health care workers or make it through the complex donation process.

This translates into wasted opportunities — and wasted lives. According to the latest available statistics, 2,124 organ transplants were performed in Canada in 2012. But 256 people died waiting for a donor.

The chances of someone receiving a transplant vary greatly across Canada and depend on the province where potential donors live, their age and the hospital where they died. Doctors often look to younger donors when procuring organs. Yet the institute found older donors are becoming increasingly accepted as a source of solid organs.”

The news is not all bad. Organ donations are up 16 per cent in Ontario this year compared to 2013. According to Ronnie Gavsie, president and chief executive of the Trillium Gift of Life Network in Ontario, the improvement can at least partly be attributed to the adoption of a more formalized approach to donation. There are now five regional medical leads who help to educate fellow physicians and support donation performance among hospitals in their geographic areas.

By March, Trillium wants to have a designated “donor physician” in all 62 hospital corporations in Ontario. Such improvements should be emulated in other provinces across Canada. Based on the findings of the Canadian Institute for Health Information’s report, even more can be done. Physicians at smaller hospitals should be helped to do a better job of obtaining organs for those needing transplants. The record at larger teaching hospitals, by contrast, is much better. In addition, physicians should be encouraged to identify older, potential donors.

The need is great. As you read this, more than 4,600 Canadians are on waiting lists for organ transplants. They can’t wait forever for the health-care system to get better so they can, too.

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