Speech – 2018.09.27 – Motion 189 – Organ Donation



Motion M-189 – Organ & Tissue Donation

September 27, 2018

  Mr. Len Webber (Calgary Confederation, CPC): Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak to Motion No. 189, which seeks to improve the organ and tissue donation system here in Canada.    This is a very timely issue for debate in the House, in a week that has seen the tabling of the health committee’s report on organ donation, the second reading of my private member’s bill on organ donation, and now Motion No. 189 on organ donation. It has truly been an organ donation week here in the House.

Like the hon. member for Thérèse-De Blainville, I am a long-time advocate of organ and tissue donation in Canada. I have heard many triumphant and also tragic stories related to organ and tissue donation.

As a former MLA, I had a bill pass in the Alberta legislature that resulted in the creation of the Alberta organ and tissue donation registry.

However, more work needs to be done to get Canadians on board, so I introduced another bill just this week here in the House of Commons. That bill proposes to amend the annual income tax return to ask Canadians if they wish to become organ and tissue donors. It has the potential to register millions more donors.

Over 90% of Canadians support organ and tissue donation, but just over 20% of Canadians are registered. We need to do better. We can do better.

I am honoured to have the member for Thérèse-De Blainville as an official seconder of my bill, and I certainly will be supporting his initiative here with Motion No. 189.

Also, on Tuesday of this week, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health presented an important report regarding organ and tissue donation. The report is an accumulation of the work we did together after I proposed a study at committee.

I must note that the committee did an amazing job of working together toward a common goal. I must thank all hon. committee members for allowing this study to happen. This non-partisan effort, along with the tremendous expert testimony that we received, made the report a fair and accurate representation of the study we undertook.

I would like to take a moment to highlight some of the key items from the report, as they speak directly in support of Motion No. 189.

We found that the federal government could help by first, supporting the adoption of best practices in organ donation and transplantation across all jurisdictions; second, investing in national public education and awareness campaigns to promote a conversation among family members regarding organ donation; third, creating more opportunities for Canadians to register their decisions regarding organ donation; and fourth, providing sustained funding for research and data collection to ensure that organ transplantation results in improved health outcomes for Canadians.

The health committee quickly agreed on a number of key recommendations after listening to these key stakeholders and experts.

The first recommendation from the health committee is that the Government of Canada provide the Canadian Blood Services with sustained funding to strengthen and expand upon existing interprovincial organ donation and transplantation-sharing programs; develop a sustained national multimedia public awareness campaign to promote organ donation, and promote the adoption of best practices in organ donation and transplantation across the country.

The second recommendation is that the health minister establish a working group with provincial and territorial ministers of health to examine best practices in organ donation legislation across the country, such as the adoption of mandatory referral of any potential organ donor, and to identify any barriers to the implementation of these best practices.

Our third recommendation is that the Government of Canada identify and create opportunities for Canadians to register as organ donors through access points for federal programs and services, in collaboration with provincial and territorial organ donation programs. Of course, I have to note that this particular recommendation directly supports my Bill C-316 and my efforts to amend the annual tax return so that Canadians can register as donors.

The fourth recommendation of our health committee is that the Government of Canada provide information and education to Canadians regarding organ donation as part of its efforts to promote organ donation registration through federal programs and service access points.

Our fifth recommendation is that the Government of Canada continue to provide funding for organ donation and transplantation research through its networks of centres of excellence program.

Finally, the sixth is that the Canadian Institute for Health Information and Canadian Blood Services work together to develop a national data collection system to monitor outcomes in organ donation to support research and systems improvement.

Improving the transplant system in Canada is not a political issue; it is a human issue. I believe we have a united House when it comes to dealing with this issue of organ donation, and I firmly believe that we can improve the system. We have the potential to save hundreds of lives and improve the quality of the lives of many Canadians in every community of this great country. Inaction or delays in making necessary improvements will cost lives and money. It is a known fact that life-saving transplants save us costs in our our medical system because they remove the dependence of thousands of people from costly treatments and hospitalizations. This leaves more resources for other challenges to be addressed.

I recognize that in Canada, because organ and tissue donor registries are a provincial jurisdiction, we face some unique challenges in implementing change. That said, I also believe that where there is a will there is a way. I believe that Canada can move from being a country with one of the worst organ-donation rates in the world to one of the best. I believe that Canadians will register in greater numbers if we make the process easier and more convenient. I believe we need to be innovative in how we reach potential donors and how we educate and inform potential donors. I also believe that we need to do a great deal more work to make sure that families respect the wishes of their family members. The number of people who want to donate but have that decision overruled by their surviving families is shocking. One study suggests that one in five donors does not have his or her relatives respect his or her wishes to donate. We need to open up the discussion in Canada so that we do not bury perfectly good organs every day while other people in our community face death daily, waiting for a life-saving transplant.

In closing, I would again like to thank my colleagues from all parties for their support on this issue that is so close to my heart. I want to thank them for their non-partisan and collaborative support to improve the lives of so many Canadians. I believe we can achieve some great things here if we all continue to pull in the same direction. For this reason, I am proud to be a strong supporter of Motion No. 189.