Only 8 per cent of Albertans registered as organ donors

More than two years after the province created an online registry in hopes of increasing the number of organ donors, only eight per cent of Albertans have registered with the program, says Alberta Health.

Province created online registry in 2014 in hopes of increasing number of donors

Currently, only people who have consented before they die are considered donors. (Getty Images)

More than two years after the province created an online registry in hopes of increasing the number of organ donors, only eight per cent of adult Albertans have registered with the program, says Alberta Health.

People are six times more likely to need transplants than they are to become donors, the health authority said.

At present, more than 600 Albertans are waiting for organ transplants, and thousands more are in need of tissue transplants. 

Before the online registry was launched in 2014, there was no way for Alberta Health to properly track how many people had chosen to be donate their organs, said AHS spokesperson Carolyn Ziegler.

"We don't know how many people indicated their consent by signing the back of their health card," Ziegler said in a statement. "That was one of the reasons the registry was created."

More than 250,000 Albertans over the age of 18 have registered to become organ donors. About 93 per cent of them signed up at registry offices. Only seven per cent used the online system.

David Hartell is the executive director of the Canadian National Transplant Research Program, which works to increase organ and tissue donation in Canada.

"Alberta is certainly one of the lower performers in the country," Hartell said.

Ontario, which has had an online registry since 2011, has 29 per cent of people registered.

British Columbia, which created Canada's first online registry in 2008, registered its millionth donor in June.

Hartell says to get numbers like that, there needs to be more awareness.

"What is really missing in Alberta is a coordinated system that will actually help move all of this forward," he said.

"Having an online registry is one thing, but you need resources to promote it, you need resources to manage it.

"You need resources to really manage that whole organ transplant and patient system in Alberta, and Alberta doesn't have that."

Hartell said people often consider themselves to be organ donors, but have never officially registered.

"That is the best way to make sure that your wishes are respected. You've taken the time to go through that process."

"Being an organ donor can have a huge impact on other people who are really waiting for a second chance at life. These organs aren't going to do any good to people being buried in the ground."