B.C. transplant recipient encouraged by Nova Scotia's new opt-out program
SURREY, B.C. -- Those in B.C.'s organ transplant community are paying close attention to Nova Scotia, where a new law recently came into effect regarding organ donation.
Nova Scotia became the first place in all of North American to introduce “presumed consent” for organ donation. This means all adults become donors automatically unless they opt-out.
“My reaction was excitement. This is something that, from a recipient’s point of view, we've been looking forward to,” said Sunny Tutt. “There’s no better gift than the gift of life.”
Tutt became a heart transplant recipient six years ago when his long battle with a form of congestive heart failure took a bad turn. A new organ was the only way he’d be able to survive.
“The longer you wait, we just never know when that heart could give out,” he said.
When he got his new heart, he immediately felt the difference.
“I just felt this newfound amount of energy. And I think I could just attribute it to a fully functioning heart; my old one was only functioning at less than 20 per cent. So I remember, it was an amazing feeling,” he said.
According to Dr. Sean Keenan, Transplant BC’s medical director for organ donation, there are more than 700 British Columbians on the organ transplant waitlist, and many die while waiting.
He said that is why Transplant BC will be keeping an eye on what happens in Nova Scotia.
“If we do see something that we think benefits, we will obviously need to have conversations about doing that, because we do want to do the best we can in British Columbia to support those needing transplants,” he said.
But there’s uncertainty as to whether an opt-out program is the answer.
Keenan points to Spain, which introduced an opt-out program in 1979 but did not see a jump in donation until it implemented other tools, such as education.
“It's clear that the legislation alone is not enough. It's what accompanies the legislation that makes a difference,” he said.
The Ministry of Health said it’s focused on increasing the number of registered donors by increasing education and awareness.
“These strategies to expand the use of in-hospital transplant coordinators, education and training for medical professionals, and public education are in place in British Columbia. The organ donation rate has significantly increased over the last several years, such that B.C. is now one of the leading provinces in Canada for organ donation,” the ministry said in a statement.
It said there are currently 1.5 million registered donors in the province.
To register, visit Transplant BC’s website.