Gift of Life Act

Sadly, the government immediately removed one of the most progressive and innovative suggestions on increasing organ donation rates-presumed consent.

Presumed consent has met with great success in jurisdictions where it has been implemented. Organ donation awareness increases as does the organs that come available for transplant. Individuals for any reason can opt out of this program.

Dear Mr. Helwer:

I am pleased that the private members bill the “Gift of Life Act” I introduced in March 2017 has generated a huge amount of public interest in organ donation.

The public interest in this issue can be demonstrated by the fact that my PMB (seconded by MLA Judy Klassen) generated media coast to coast including over 5300 shares on the CBC website alone. (The average story out of the legislature may get 50 shares. See attached.)

Again, a private members bill need not to be passed to be successful.

I was pleased to have the opportunity in the fall of 2017 to call for a vote and a debate on my PMB. The debate was very interesting. Again members of the official opposition and independent members associated with the Liberal Party provided additional perspectives.

It was disappointing that no one in the government participated in the debate. Not one word was mentioned, not one word came from the government benches on that October 31, 2017 debate. It was sad to see.

However, hope was provided by the health minister when it was announced the next day that a special standing committee would be struck to deal with the issue of organ donation. (Hansard October 31, 2017 QP).

A standing committee provides many advantages including public presentations, permanent record of the presentations, a multi-party venue, which allows questions from any MLA. Witnesses can present in person in a manner that simply does not come through in a written document.

Sadly, the government immediately removed one of the most progressive and innovative suggestions on increasing organ donation rates-presumed consent.

Presumed consent has met with great success in jurisdictions where it has been implemented. Organ donation awareness increases as does the organs that come available for transplant. Individuals for any reason can opt out of this program.

It is disappointing that the government spokesperson immediately reduced the scope of this new standing committee to ensure it excludes presumed consent.

It was also bizarre the rational for the exclusion of presumed consent. The MLA for Brandon West stated “There are implications for particular religions that want to see their loved ones buried whole. There’s all kinds of things that have to be covered off on this.”

It is unclear which religion the MLA is referring to. Every major religion and denomination accepts that organ donation is “a gift of life”. It is this misunderstanding of religion that undermines the credibility of the MLA charged with chairing the standing committee.

I have attached a summary of where major religions stand on the issue of organ donation. I have also attached letters from MP’s in the Federal Conservative Party who have been involved in the issue of organ donation at a national level and support the “Gift of Life Act”.

On February 14 of this year the government announced a Task Force on the issue of organ donation. This is disappointing as a standing committee on organ donation is what is recorded as promised in Hansard and the media.

A Task Force is far weaker in impact then a standing committee. Accepting only written submissions minimizes the impact that organ donation has on the recipients family and the donors family, not to mention the recipient themselves. This would likely have provided moving and emotional testimonies by those that are most affected by organ donation.

It is difficult to think of another public policy issue more emotional and impactful as organ donation. It is important for decision makers to be open to creative public policy solutions. To say only “education” as suggested by comments made in the media by the government is simply not enough. This approach is a continuation of the status quo, it is not working, and the lives that could be saved or improved are lost.

Therefore, the government should fulfill its commitment for a standing committee rather than this “task force.”

The standing committee mandate should be open to all possibilities. To dismiss presumed consent without examination is irresponsible and demonstrates a disingenuous discussion on organ donation.

Manitoba should lead Canada in organ donation public policy, quantify the success of any new initiatives and integrate donors and recipients on an national level. The larger the pool of potential organs for donation, the more likely there will be matches for those who need the organ.

 

Sincerely,

 

Steven Fletcher

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