Executive Summary – Strategies to Optimize Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation

(Disponible en français : Résumé – Stratégies pour optimiser les dons et les greffes d’organes et de tissus)

The deceased organ donor rate in Canada is lower than that of top-performing countries, but Canada’s rate has improved in recent years. Although the gap between the number of Canadians awaiting organ transplants and the number of organs available has narrowed, further increases in organ donation are necessary to meet demand. Closing this gap will require implementing initiatives and strategies to optimize the availability of organs and tissues for transplantation, and to improve the matching of available organs with individuals on the waiting list. Jurisdictional considerations and legislation also need to be taken into account. Most of the strategies described in this Background Paper have been implemented in provinces and territories across Canada.

Initiatives to improve the organ donation and transplantation system include organ and tissue donor registries, national wait lists of patients, and the collection and storage of cord blood rich in stem cells. Another initiative that may help to optimize the deceased organ donor rate is the introduction of presumed consent approaches, whereby all individuals are considered for organ donation after death unless they register their refusal during their lifetime. In terms of consent, the issue of mandatory declaration has been considered by a number of jurisdictions. Under this model, all individuals are required to register either their consent or refusal for organ donation, which differs from a passive approach of allowing a means of registering consent but not requiring it.

Consent to donate is of little value if potential donors are not properly identified and referred to specially trained donation specialists. Mandatory referral, which requires that hospital personnel identify and refer potential donors to donation programs, could play a part in optimization efforts. To be successful, this involves training organ donor coordinators to identify potential donors and specially trained physicians to optimize donation practices.

Public awareness campaigns may contribute to improving deceased and living organ and tissue donor rates. In this regard, Canada’s National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week, organized by Canadian Blood Services, takes place during the last full week of April every year.

Finally, a number of initiatives have been established to optimize the matching of donor organs and recipients. These include the Kidney Paired Donation Program, the National Organ Waitlist and the Highly Sensitized Patient Program.

Read the full text of the Background Paper: Strategies to Optimize Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation

Author: Sonya Norris, Library of Parliament

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