B.C. needs 'opt-out' organ donation, says coach whose search for kidney went viral
Hockey coach Stephen Gillis's search for a kidney brought organ donation into the spotlight – and now he's hoping the B.C. government will consider a policy change that could save others like him.
Speaking to CTV News on Monday, Gillis said he'd like to see the province implement a presumed consent system of organ donation similar to the one recently proposed in Nova Scotia, which would make people opt out of being donors instead of opting in.
"I want to pursue that with our government and try to make that happen here," Gillis said.
The peewee coach just learned an old friend is willing to give up a kidney to save his life, and Gillis said he plans to campaign for organ donation once he's regained his strength.
"It's been an amazing few days since finding out the news," Gillis said. "I'm still beside myself trying to process it."
Nova Scotia's Human Organ and Tissue Donation Act, which only applies to people ages 19 and up, would make it the first jurisdiction in North America to adopt presumed consent.
Experts say it could lead to a substantial increase in donation rates, pointing to past successes in parts of Europe, but the idea of opt-out policies in Canada has proven controversial – even as people die every year waiting for a transplant.
Statistics show 27 people on the transplant wait list died last year in B.C. alone. But BC Transplant notes a very small fraction of people die in a way that allows their organs to be donated.
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix has said the province will be watching how Nova Scotia implements the policy, but there are no plans to do something similar at home.
"We're going to continue to invest in education, the work we need to do to increase the level of organ donation," Dix said Friday. "I don't exclude other action and I'm interested in what they're doing in Nova Scotia."
Gillis, who suffers from Crohn's disease, learned his kidneys were failing last year. His story went viral after his young players made a video pleading for help finding him a donor, and came to an uplifting conclusion over the weekend.
Gillis shared a touching video of his old friend, Michael Teigen, visiting him in hospital and surprising him with news that he was a donation match.
"We wanted to tell you that I'm your guy. We're a match. I'm going to give you my kidney," Teigen says in the clip, which has been watched tens of thousands of times online.
Gillis said it took him a few moments to fully comprehend what was happening because the act of generosity was just so extraordinary.
"He's my hero," Gillis told CTV News. "How do you do that for someone?"
Gillis chose to share video of the surprise announcement on Green Shirt Day, an event organized to honour Logan Boulet, the Humboldt Broncos player whose death saved six other lives because he was an organ donor.
For more information on organ donation or to sign up as a donor, visit B.C. Transplant.