OPINION: Creating a culture of organ donation

Morden-Winkler MLA Cameron Friesen. (AARON SIVERTSON; Sightlines Photograph)

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In April, Manitoba marked National Organ and Tissue Awareness Week to highlight the need for more donors and raise awareness about Manitobans anxiously waiting for a donor match.
In our province, Transplant Manitoba leads this campaign. This organization has made great strides toward building a culture of organ donation within our health-care system. They also ensure that resources are in place to provide care and support to the families who find themselves faced with difficult end-of-life decisions about organ donation.
2018 was a record year with more than 11,000 Manitobans registering their intent to become organ and tissue donors, inspired in part by Logan Boulet, the Humboldt Bronco player who had signed up as an organ donor just weeks before the horrific bus crash that claimed his life. Logan’s selfless decision ended up saving the lives of six people waiting on organ donation lists.
While Manitobans are known for their generosity, still many Manitobans either do not fill out their donor card or neglect to make their wishes known to their families when it comes to organ and tissue donation. The Government of Manitoba formed a non-partisan task force last year to invite feedback from the public on how to increase organ donation registrations. The all-party task force, chaired by Brandon West MLA Reg Helwer, examined ways to improve donation rates in Manitoba and delivered a report to the Legislature which included an important recommendation that our government announced last week.
The Manitoba Government has taken the step of moving the provincial Organ and Tissue Donation Registry online and eliminating paper donor cards. From now on, Manitobans can simply go to SignUpForLife.ca and their decision to donate is recorded in the Manitoba Health database. In the past, paper donor cards proved to be an ineffective means of relaying a person’s final wishes, as decisions were often not shared with family members and donor cards often weren’t readily available to medical staff in the moment of need. By phasing out paper donor cards, we are ensuring that the decisions of Manitobans are available, accessible and centrally stored. Online registration is simple. You need to be at least 18 years of age and have a 9-digit Manitoba Health Card number.
While we are making this change, we are asking Manitobans to have the discussion with their loved ones and talk openly about organ and tissue donation. While it can be a difficult conversation to have, it is vitally important and can save lives.
I am pleased to report that in the 24-hour period following the government’s announcement, 1,206 Manitobans registered at SignUpForLife.ca – the second highest number of people ever registered on a single day.
I thank Transplant Manitoba, the Gift of Life team, and the more than 38,000 Manitobans who have already signed up.
Your decision may one day save a life.