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Presumed Consent for Human Organ and Tissue Donation

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Resolution Category: 
Provincial Scope 15
Subject: 
Year: 
2019
Status: 
Defeated
Sponsor(s): 
Lethbridge, City of
Olds, Town of
Active Clauses: 

IT IS THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT AUMA advocate for the Government of Alberta to follow the Government of Nova Scotia and create legislation that makes organ and tissue donation a program that needs to be opted out of and not opted into for adults in Alberta.

Whereas Clauses: 

WHEREAS there are over 4,500 Canadians waiting for organ transplants, and the time on the wait list impacts their family lives and their ability to live and work as productively as they could if new organs and tissues were available to them;

WHEREAS consent to donate is addressed under the provincial statutes pertaining to organ and tissue donation;

WHEREAS in 2019 the Province of Nova Scotia unanimously passed Bill 133, The Human Organ and Tissue Donation Act, to make organ and tissue donation an opting-out decision and not an opting-in decision;

WHEREAS the introduction of a presumed consent regime, where consent to donate is presumed unless a person has expressly indicated otherwise during their lifetime, would increase donor rates; and

WHEREAS the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) believes that healthy communities are important to all Albertans, in terms of enjoying a better quality of life, managing health risks for individuals, families and communities, and seeing efficiencies in the cost of health care

Resolution Background: 

On April 6, 2018, Canadians were heartbroken to hear the news of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. Sixteen people lost their lives and thirteen will suffer with physical and emotional scars for life. The day after the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, Logan Boulet of Lethbridge, Alberta, succumbed to his injuries. His parents, Bernadine and Toby Boulet, offered to donate his organs, resulting in six other lives being saved. The previous year, Logan's coach and mentor, Ric Suggitt passed away and was a registered organ donor. This act prompted Logan to tell his parents that he was registering as an organ donor as well. As news spread of the organ donation by this young hockey player, over 100,000 people registered to become organ donors in the days and weeks that followed. To date, this is the largest number of Canadians registering to become organ donors in Canadian history due to one event or one person. What happened following Logan's selfless act, is nothing less than miraculous and became known across Canada as the "Logan Boulet Effect'.

The Boulet family is working diligently to spread Logan's message that organ donation is important and now we all continue to be inspired by this young man and his legacy. Logan Boulet had made the commitment to opt into organ and tissue donation and this act of kindness has inspired many in the Olds community to join in raising awareness of this cause. Logan's dad grew up in Olds and Logan's grandparents still reside in Olds, and many residents in the Olds community are part of continuing the Logan Boulet Effect. The Town of Olds encourages its community members to talk to their families and register as organ donors, but this cause impacts every community.

A gap between the need for organ and tissue donation and the documented consent of available donors is a problem in Canada. Every year, too many people die while waiting for an organ donation, and over 1,600 Canadians are added to organ wait lists. There is a difference between intent to be a donor and legal consent. Often people will consider donating their organs and tissues; however, they wait until the time is right. That is often too late for many to do their generous act. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the deceased donor rate in Canada increased by 42% between 2007 and 2016. The Canadian Transplant Association indicates that almost 90% of Canadians say they support organ donation, but only 23% have registered their intent to donate. Though donation rates have improved over the last ten years, there is more to be done, as approximately 250 Canadians die annually waiting for an organ transplant. One donor can benefit more than 75 people and save up to eight lives.

In Canada, notwithstanding Nova Scotia's passing Bill 133 in April 2019, all provinces and territories operate on opt-in, or explicit consent, or required consent systems whereby an individual expresses the intention to become a donor. Presumed consent is sometimes described as an 'opt-out' system for organ donation. It works by assuming that, unless people express a wish otherwise, they are willing to donate their organs. Proponents of a presumed consent approach note that the clear majority of Canadians are in favour of organ donation when asked, but only a fraction of those who are in favour actually register their intent to do so.

There is currently particular interest in organ donation and the impact a change in legislation or policy can have on donation rates. The lack of organ donation is an issue that impacts individuals and families in every Alberta community.

The Town of Olds and the City of Lethbridge would like to co-sponsor a resolution that reverses the current situation and while the choice of donating is still up to adults over 18, the decision would be to opt-out of the program and not be required to take steps to opt-in.

AUMA Notes: 

AUMA does not have a current policy position on this specific issue.