N.B. Medical Society urges for change to organ donor program

·2 min read
 Dr. Jeff Steeves, president of the New Brunswick Medical Society, is calling for a change to the province's organ donor program. (New Brunswick Medical Society - image credit)
Dr. Jeff Steeves, president of the New Brunswick Medical Society, is calling for a change to the province's organ donor program. (New Brunswick Medical Society - image credit)

The president of the New Brunswick Medical Society is calling on government officials to adopt legislation for presumed consent, making every resident an organ donor unless they opt out.

"There's a win for the donor's family at one of the worst times in their life," said Dr. Jeff Steeves, president of the New Brunswick Medical Society.

"There's the win for the recipient and there's the win for the health system."

A total of 3,014 organ transplant procedures were performed in Canada in 2019, an increase of 42 per cent since 2010, according to the Canadian Organ Replacement Register.

But Steeves said there's still a real need for solid organ transplants.

'There's quite a gap'

In New Brunswick, only 30 per cent of residents have indicated they would like to be organ donors. He expects a lot of it to be an oversight from New Brunswickers.

"We know from studies that approximately 90 per cent of the population are willing to be donors," he said. "So there's quite a gap."

Right now, New Brunswick has an opt in program for organ and tissue donation, where a potential donor has to show on their Medicare application that they want to be a donor. The consent indicator is in a small box to the right side of a person's name on the two page form to obtain a Medicare card.

"It's easy to miss," he said.

In 2019, former Health Minister Ted Flemming said he would consider presumed consent for organ and tissue donation.

People's Alliance MLA Michelle Conroy also tabled a motion in 2019 to make organ donation a law in New Brunswick.

Myths about organ donation

Steeves said there are myths around organ donation. Some believe it might shorten efforts to save a potential donor's life.

"The decision is made when full resuscitative measures have been completed, but there is brain death and circulatory system is still going."

This typically happens in the intensive care unit of a hospital. Then, family members would be approached to ask for consent.

"None of the life-saving endeavours would be shortened."

In January 2021, Nova Scotia became the first province to pass the Human Organ and Tissue Donation Act, making every individual a potential organ donor unless they choose to opt out.