moved that Bill C-202, an act respecting a National Organ Donor Day in Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, it is ant honour for me to rise today to launch the debate-which I hope will be positive-that will among other things improve the health and future of many people from
coast to coast, whether they live in Quebec, Ontario, western Canada or the maritimes.
Bill C-202 would designate a national day to recognize the importance of organ donation.
My desire to put forward this private member's bill came as a result of a very real, very human event that took place in my riding on April 21, 1994.
A young boy by the name of Stuart Harriott of Whitby, Ontario was unfortunately involved in an accident with a vehicle. As the young boy was in the last days and hours of life, his parents, his aunt and other relatives tried to determine how best to resolve their terrible grief. The doctors had told them that the young boy would eventually pass away and he did succumb to his injuries.
Rather than seeing this tragedy for what it was, Linda Rumble and Stuart Harriott's parents decided that they would begin a campaign to initiate something that would provide, if there ever is one in this world, a silver lining to such a tragic event.
At their insistence and the insistence of many organizations I have had the privilege of speaking to over the past year, we have before us today an opportunity as Parliament to discuss and perhaps approve an action Parliament recognizes on a given day, April 21, the importance and significance that in giving of one's life we may also give life to others.
The bill is about public education and awareness. Every year in Canada from coast to coast, 2,500 people need the gift of life. However, only 300 transplants on average are given. This leaves a tremendous shortfall.
While many organizations, from the Kidney Foundation to the Multiple Organ Retrieval Exchange Group, the Canadian Association of Transplant Patients, the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the Canadian Liver Foundation, the Heart and Stroke and Lung Association, to the Canadian Medical Association and many others work to raise the awareness of Canadians of the need to sign their donor cards, many may do not enjoy the benefits and continue to suffer.
The House of Commons has an opportunity to put aside the traditional debate and often divisiveness that exists and provide for once an opportunity to allow people who are suffering today the hope that perhaps down the road they will be able to receive one, two or several organs. Some of these young children who received the gift of life from Stuart Herriott will also be able to enjoy their future.
Perhaps this is more important because it is not just that it affects and sounds like it is one of those motherhood issues. I think each of us in the House knows of constituents and families afflicted and affected by a debilitating disease or by accidents or by trauma.
I was very surprised to learn that one of our former clerks who worked on many committees for years, a well known individual, G.A. Sandy Birch, is a recipient of a heart. I a saw him recently at a function held in Ottawa where 35 other individuals had been given the gift of life, many of them with our colleague in the other place presiding at the transplant, the hon. Dr. Keon.
I was quite impressed to see how important and how close to home such examples of transplants can be in our own neighbourhoods.
I believe the public awareness and education programs such a bill would bring about would address very firmly some of the misapprehensions individuals have about transplants. Some will be concerned from a religious point of view, and I will address that.
Much of this is based on what some would consider simply confusion or ignorance surrounding the religious impact on the issue of organ donation. It may surprise many colleagues to learn that virtually every major religion in the world permits, and some actually encourage, organ donation and transplants.
Hindus are not prohibited by religious law from donating organs. Muslims support organ transplants and donations as long as they are done with respect for the deceased and for the benefit of the recipient. Judaism teaches that saving a human life takes precedence over maintaining the sanctity of the human body in terms of organ donation. Direct transplantation is therefore preferred.
In Christianity, Protestants respect individual conscience and an person's right to make decisions about their body and that resurrection does not require making the physical body whole again. Catholics view organ donation as an act of charity, fraternal love and self-sacrifice.
Some are also equally concerned about the question of safety. The importance of ensuring the safety of organ transplantation is of paramount and absolute concern. Research is being conducted examining the issue of reducing the risk of a recipient's contracting diseases such as hepatitis B and C and HIV from transplants.
In October 1995 the national consensus conference on the safety of organs and tissues for transplantation brought together a broad range of experts in the field of transplantation. The conference was successful in achieving a consensus on accepting in principle a Canadian general standard on safety of organs and tissues for transplantation. At the same time a risk management regulatory framework was proposed.
I am confident that more attention and study will be given to the issue of improving the safety of organ transplants.
In the intervening period since I introduced this bill under a different name in the previous session I have received a lot of correspondence from members of Parliament from across this great land.
Support for Linda Rumble and her initiatives have been received from many members, including the members for Saint John, Peterborough, Winnipeg North, London East, Vancouver Centre and Saskatoon-Humboldt.
Mr. Speaker, while we agree to the need for a day when we can pay respect to the individuals who have given life, perhaps some time down the road your good Chair and office might permit an honour role to recognize every year those who in laying down their lives have actually provided hope for many others.
It is my belief this bill does what other organizations cannot do individually. They cannot draw the attention of all Canadian people to sign their donor cards and to address the inhibitions of organ donation, for it is not something which should be done with trepidation, but with honour. When we pass on from this great planet, it is my belief there are opportunities for us to know that some of us will live in the lives of others.
I was also touched by some of the more immediate examples of what organ donation has done for many people, even among families. Glenn DeMille is a well know heart transplant recipient who helped to organize many events in the Ottawa region to draw attention to, at least from a local perspective, the need for organ donation.
Mr. DeMille received a heart transplant several years ago. However, most people do not know it is his son's heart which lives within him. Glenn DeMille did not know his son had signed a donor card. After his operation he was informed of the transplant. Mr. DeMille smiles because he feels like and has the energy of a 25-year old. Mr. DeMille will continue to be a driving force locally.
Perhaps we need a national force in which the division which often appears in the House of Commons and in committees is put aside for one day and parties will actually say there are some issues which transcend partisan considerations.
I am submitting today that Parliament can do what individual organizations cannot do. While it is true some groups and organizations designate weeks in which they recognize specific causes on a regional, local or provincial basis, we have never been able to pinpoint a specific day. In my view it should be April 21.
I ask this House to give my bill serious consideration and to support its implementation so that present and future generations can receive the gift of life.