Registry is long overdue

It was a day long overdue in Saskatchewan.

The provincial government launched an online organ and tissue donor registry earlier this month, making it easier for Saskatchewan residents to declare that they want to donate their organs once they die. 

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Anything that brings our organ and tissue donation system up to date, improves donation rates and reduces transplant waiting lists (within reason, of course) has to be viewed as a positive.  

It’s important to make organ and tissue donation as simple as possible. Go online. Fill out the forms. Declare your intentions. Do your part to help others. The new registry does just that.

Outside of religious beliefs, you have to wonder why anyone wouldn’t want to be an organ and tissue donor.  

It’s pretty incredible that this province, with its incredibly generous people who care so much about their friends, family and neighbours, has often languished in last place in the country when it comes to organ donations. 

We’re so generous in so many ways, but when it comes time to make one of the greatest donations possible, we fall behind the rest. 

Organ donation is a tough subject to broach for a lot of people. Talking about it is a reminder of death. It can be particularly difficult for young people to hear it, because it’s so far removed from their thought process, but in the end, the best time to register someone for the registry is when they’re young.

You can register once you turn 16. We know that for most young people, getting a driver’s licence is top of mind at age 16. But this is another great thing they can do at that milestone year.

And if you’re older, and you haven’t registered to be a donor, what’s stopping you? Again, it’s a tough subject, but now you have another tool to help others.

There is an out of sight, out of mind component to this. Every once in a while, something has happened to bring organ donation back into the public spotlight. A young person will die far too young, and we’ll marvel at that person for agreeing to be an organ donor. It will inspire other people to finally fill out organ donor forms.

Or we’ll hear the story of a relatively young person who has encountered a serious health issue, through no fault of their own, and will need a life-saving organ donation. At that point, you’ll often see people stepping forward to offer to be a donor, hoping that they will be a match.

They might not always be compatible with someone, but at least they’re in the registry at that point.

Like so many other issues, after a while, these inspirational stories of organ donation, who saw the value of their efforts, get shuffled to the back pages in favour of other stories of the day.  

Just because someone is an organ and tissue donor, doesn’t mean they will be able to help others once they die. But we can’t afford to take a defeatist approach on this issue, either. There’s too many people who need help to say “well, I might not be able to make a difference.”

You can’t make organ donation mandatory. You’ll get caught up in freedom of religion calls in some circles, and the legislation will be caught up in the courts before eventually getting squashed.

And perhaps one day our government will adopt presumed consent with organ and tissue donation, and decide to make it something that you opt out of, rather than into. 

But until that day comes, initiatives like this new registry will go a long ways in improving our donation rates.  

Perhaps one day, we’ll be first in the country for organ donation, rather than near the bottom.  

© Copyright Estevan Mercury

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