If you’re not an organ donor, then why?

There was never any doubt about it: I was going to be an organ donor.

Mom was a nurse for 38 years in B.C. She dedicated her career to helping others in several different cities, whether it be in hospitals or through home care. A tireless worker and a dedicated professional who seemingly knew everything there was to know about health, and still knows everything today.

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Well, except for computers and electronic filing. But that’s another column for another paper.

Anyways, there was a day when I was in high school, or maybe my freshman year of university, when she asked if I wanted to be an organ donor. I’d already heard the benefits of organ donation. I knew it could help people. So I was happy to oblige without giving it a second thought.

Hopefully it will be a long time before that organ donor sticker on my Saskatchewan Health Card needs to be used. But when that day comes, I know that I’ll be able to save the lives of others.

I likely won’t save someone’s life while I’m alive, but I can do it once I’m gone.

I’m still a supporter for organ donation. And so I was understandably emotional when I heard the story of Logan Boulet, one of the 16 people who died in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash last year.

He signed his organ donor card just a few weeks before the bus crash, even though at age 21, he was still a young man. There were lots of things he wasn’t old enough to do, but he was old enough to understand the value of organ donation.

Boulet’s story inspired people so much that about 200,000 people signed organ donor registration forms in the months following the bus crash, in what has now become known as the Logan Boulet Effect. Now, it should be noted that April is a recruitment month for organ donation, so a bit of a spike should be anticipated. But it’s a safe bet that most of the people who registered after the bus crash did so after hearing Boulet’s story. 

Sports Illustrated’s cover story in the March 7 edition was Boulet – a touching tribute to the young man. You know that the story has had a profound impact on many when the premier sports publication in the U.S. has dedicated its front cover to a young man from southern Alberta who played for a junior hockey team in east-central Saskatchewan.

April 7 was declared Green Shirt Day in Saskatchewan. People donned green to show their support for organ donation. (Since we live in Saskatchewan, most of us have a Saskatchewan Roughriders jersey, so it’s not hard for us to find a green shirt to wear).

Since April 7 was on a Sunday, local schools had their Green Shirt Day on April 8.

While the deaths of Boulet and the 15 other people on the bus was a tragedy unlike anything most of us have seen in Saskatchewan, it is nice to see the way in which so many people have committed to saving the lives of others once they die.

It’s also reignited the debate on whether it’s time to make organ donation an opt-out, rather, than an opt-in proposition.

Currently, if you want to be an organ donor, you have to declare your intention to be one. Most people would tell you that organ donation is a great thing. They support it unreservedly. Yet ask them if they have the organ donor sticker on their health card, and they’ll say no.

Perhaps they’ve been too busy to sign up. Or maybe it’s not something they want to deal with. Death is never the easiest topic to broach. I’m sure there are some people who are a little uncomfortable reading this column because, in part, it deals with death.

Saskatchewan has the lowest organ donor rates in the country. It’s not something to be proud of. And it’s surprising. When you consider how many areas we lead the country in, you’d expect we’d be tops in Canada for doing the right thing and signing up to be organ donors.

It should be easier to be an organ donor, than to not be an organ donor. It should be easier to save the lives of up to six people.

You can’t force somebody to be an organ donor. After all, there are some who oppose it for religious reasons. They have that right. But you can give people the option to opt-out, rather than opt-in.

Mom shouldn’t have had to come to me and asked me when I was a teenager whether I wanted to be an organ donor. There are a lot of decisions that are made for us at an early age. This should be one of them.

And if a parent doesn’t think it’s right, or if someone decides later they don’t want to be a donor, , because of religious beliefs or conspiracy theories, then they can opt out.

Nova Scotia has already taken steps to be the first province in the country to require people to opt out of organ donation. Saskatchewan should be the second.

© Copyright Estevan Mercury

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