Record increase in life-saving organ donations in Ontario, Trillium Gift of Life Network says
Humboldt Bronco bus tragedy, medically assisted death factors in increase, Trillium CEO says
New data shows a record number of people received a life-saving organ donation in Ontario over the last three months, according to the Trillium Gift of Life Network.
"This is wonderful for Ontario," said Ronnie Gavsie, president and CEO of the network responsible for organ and tissue donations in the province.
She said 388 lives were saved by an organ donation over the past three months. The numbers represent a 21 per cent increase in overall donors from the same time a year ago and a 31 per cent increase in transplants.
Gavsie cited a number of factors contributing to the spike, including more families consenting to donation, the so-called "Logan Boulet effect," and more donors who had a medically-assisted death.
Logan Boulet was one of the Humboldt Broncos hockey players who died in the team's bus tragedy in April 2018. He was also an organ donor who saved six lives.
People celebrated his contribution by wearing green shirts in his honour and encouraging people to follow his example.
Since then, more than 100,000 Canadians have signed up to donate their organs.
Gavsie said there have been six donors who had a medically-assisted death in the last three months, compared to 12 for the entire year last year.
Still, just 34 per cent of Ontarians are registered as donors, and just over 1,600 people are waiting for an organ.
Behind the numbers are hundreds of personal stories.
"I am so grateful," said Jennifer Monteith, when asked about the increase in donors.
The 66-year-old Toronto woman received a heart transplant nine years ago.
She first noticed a problem around two years earlier, when her energy disappeared.
"I remember shuffling, literally shuffling one foot in front of the other, and couldn't pick up that step."
She recalled one day when the impacts of her congestive heart failure were especially extreme.
"I went out one morning, 130 pounds, and by 9 o'clock that night, I was 150 pounds," all caused by fluid retention.
Now, though, her life has turned around.
"I have more energy than Dick Tracy will ever have bullets," she laughed.
She'd like the organ donor system changed across Canada, with people automatically registered as donors, unless they opt out, a policy implemented in Nova Scotia.
In Ontario, the NDP tabled similar legislation, though it did not pass.
But the Trillium Gift of Life Network said that type of law is not the only answer to increasing donor numbers.
"It's not the silver bullet," said Gavsie.
"Even with presumed consent, families have to be asked," and sometimes refuse.