Statement made on 23 April 2009 by Senator Catherine Callbeck
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck:
Honourable senators, the need for tissue and organs is greater than ever. As I speak now during National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week, approximately 4,300 Canadians are waiting for an organ donation. However, need is far greater than supply. More than 200 people died last year while waiting for a transplant that never came.
Anyone can be an organ and tissue donor. A single donor can help up to 80 people with his or her heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, skin, bone, tendons, eyes and more. Sadly, not enough Canadians are signing up for this life-saving option.
With great advances in medical technology, organ and tissue transplants work better than ever. For example, the three-year survival rate for lung transplant recipients has increased from 60 per cent in 1997 to 80 per cent in 2003. With surgical innovation and improvement in drugs, numbers like those are getting better all the time. However, if there are no organs available, that success rate is obviously zero.
It is easy to become a potential organ donor. Depending on the rules of the province, you can simply sign an organ donor card or have your desire to donate indicated on your health card or driver's licence, but you must discuss your wishes with your family. In most parts of the country, doctors will not proceed with organ donation without the family's consent or if the family has not been informed of your decision.
The death of a family member is a sad event, but something good can come of this loss. A heart keeps a person alive. A kidney can free someone from painful dialysis. Corneas restore sight. Bone can stop the need for amputation. Skin donation can protect burn victims from infection. Organ and tissue donations save lives, restore health and give hope to individuals who are suffering.
Honourable senators, I encourage everyone to take the necessary steps to be an organ and tissue donor. Speak frankly with your families about that decision.
I would also like to thank all those Canadians who have already made such arrangements. Their compassion, goodwill and remarkable generosity will offer hope to the thousands of fellow Canadians who are awaiting a transplant.