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House of Commons Hansard #60 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was organs.

Topics

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

8:40 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Madam Chair, I thank the member opposite, who spoke about a number of topics.

Indeed, there are many people waiting for kidney transplants. Seventy-five per cent of patients on waiting lists are in need of kidney transplants. It is a problem. Even when there are lists of living donors, there are challenges when it comes to compatibility. What we could propose, for example, is to have a list of paired living donors. Someone who wanted to sign up to donate a kidney could be paired with someone who was in need of an organ. This way, two people would be put on the registry: a donor and a recipient. Every time, there would be two people put on a list.

We can work on promoting awareness at the individual level. We can encourage people to talk more about organ donation. Obviously, when we are healthy, we do not usually think about getting sick or having an accident and dying unexpectedly in some stupid way. People do not necessarily take the time to sign their donor cards. For the time being, this is one of the ways we have available to give a precious gift to someone who needs a vital organ. We absolutely must talk about it.

The hon. member mentioned the holiday season, when family and friends often get together. This is a topic that must be talked about. There are no miracle solutions. We could work on the best ways to manage the registries and all the tools we have available. We could work with the provinces and territories to ensure that health care professionals are able to talk to families and that they have better resources to manage the information they are able to collect from patients and their families.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

8:45 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Chair, I thank my colleague for informing us about what is taking place in Quebec.

There has been a lot of discussion tonight about the need to talk to our families and friends at the dinner table. I do think that is really important. However, it is similar to the chicken and the egg situation. If people are going to talk about it, it is because they are aware. It is one thing if there are 10,000 individuals who are aware and have conversations. However, we need to have a massive public awareness campaign in order to have those conversations.

There is awareness about drunk driving because year after year there have been messages about it. For example, in B.C., the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia has a massive campaign. We have campaigns by groups in the non-profit sector, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving. We have police campaigns. There is a massive awareness and slowly, a shift begins to take place.

Of course, people have to have discussions before making a decision about whether to sign a donor card online, in person or at the auto insurance bureau. However, unless we have huge public awareness campaigns to deal with some of the myths about organ donation, I do not think we are going to make a lot of progress.

I wonder if the member would just comment on the need for some kind of huge public awareness campaign across the country.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

8:45 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Madam Chair, I would like to thank my NDP colleague for her important comments. Clearly, the federal government must promote a Canada-wide awareness campaign. The more publicity this issue gets, the more people will see the symbols of organ donation all over. This will start discussions, get reactions and generate debate. That is exactly what we want. However, the government must manage this campaign so that the debate is based on factual information and not on fear.

I mentioned myths. Many people think that if they sign an organ donor card and they become ill, they will not be given the same level of care because doctors will want to harvest their organs to give to others. That is not at all true. Health professionals treat all patients ethically and professionally in order to help them regain their health. Once these myths are debunked, people will feel safer and will know what will happen to their organs and how health professionals go about doing transplants. They will understand the odds of a donor being compatible with a recipient and the odds of success for transplant operations.

The more informed people are, the more confidence they will have in these procedures or operations. When people see the positive effects that organ donation has and how it helps others, they will have a stronger desire to get involved and to contribute. That is why it is important that the government get involved and demonstrate leadership in raising awareness of the issue of organ donation and the positive effects it has on the health of Canadians from all walks of life.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Chair, it is heart-wrenching to see a friend, family member or colleague suffer from organ failure. The impact is significant on both the individual and the family.

Patients must spend hours hooked up to a dialysis machine instead of spending time with their loved ones. Parents know that their child must take a cocktail of drugs every day and spend time in the hospital rather than being out in the playground with friends. It is very worrisome. Organ failure also threatens individuals' autonomy and their ability to support themselves and their loved ones.

It is uplifting to hear and read the stories of people who get a second chance at life following a successful organ transplant. It is inspirational to know how it is made possible through the generosity and altruism of organ donors.

I would like to take this opportunity to underline the generous spirit of people who have already donated an organ or who have made the decision to do so, whether to someone they know or to a stranger.

A significant milestone was recently achieved in Canada on organ donation and transplantation. Just last week it was announced that the 100th successful kidney transplant was completed through the Living Donor Paired Exchange Registry.

This registry, which is the first Canada-wide organ donation registry, was launched two years ago by Canadian Blood Services in partnership with transplant programs across the country to help address the shortage of organs in need. This registry, with support of all the provinces, illustrates what can be achieved through cross-country collaboration.

Approximately 4,000 Canadians are waiting for an organ transplant. In 2009, there were approximately 1,000 organ donors in Canada and more than 2,000 transplants of solid organs were performed.

However, many patients remain on waiting lists. Roughly 200 Canadians die each year while waiting for an organ transplant. Three-quarters of the 4,000 patients on the organ waiting list need a kidney transplant.

Unfortunately, there are not enough deceased kidney donations to help everyone who needs such a transplant. That is where the Living Donor Paired Exchange Registry comes in. This registry allows someone whose kidney is not compatible with a friend or relative in need of a transplant to donate to a stranger instead. The friend or family member in turn is matched with another person's incompatible donor. Basically it allows for what we call kidney swapping.

Although deceased donation is the type of organ donation most people are familiar with, it is also possible for a healthy living person to donate a kidney. This involves surgery to remove a kidney from the living donor and to transplant it into a patient who needs a kidney. A person can live a healthy life with only one kidney.

Kidney donation is the most frequent type of living organ donation. There are many advantages to live kidney donations. For example, a kidney from a living donor is usually healthier; it may function better and may last longer than a kidney from a deceased donor.

A living kidney transplant is the most successful of all transplant procedures. Not only do these transplants improve and save lives, estimates suggest the savings of a transplant over dialysis to the health care system are significant.

The 100th successful exchange transplant milestone reached by the Living Donor Paired Exchange Registry was just announced on November 29, 2011, exactly one year after it officially became Canada's first national organ donation registry with the last province joining in.

This achievement was made possible through the generosity and compassion of individuals who donated anonymously to anyone in need.

As of the end of October, the registry had 247 donor-recipient pairs registered in the system, as well as 25 non-directed anonymous donors. One of these donors is Ms. Erin Taylor, a 30-year-old emergency room nurse in Edmonton who was recently featured in The Globe and Mail. Ms. Taylor donated her kidney to a stranger in Vancouver. Her generosity triggered a chain of events that resulted in two additional transplants.

It is stories like those that reflect the generous spirit of Canadians and that inspire motivation to do something to help a fellow citizen, whether a friend, relative, colleague or a perfect stranger. In fact, Canada has been doing well compared to other countries in terms of recruiting live donors. We are among the top performing countries in this regard.

In the last 10 years, living donors accounted for more than two-thirds of the increase in the number of organ donors in our country. While this progress is encouraging, we could be doing better, especially for deceased donor rates. This is where Canada lags behind other countries. At about 14 donors per million Canadians, our rate is less than half that of the best performing countries. As I said, that is in the deceased donor part of it.

It is not that Canadians are not compassionate and altruistic. Ms. Taylor's story and that of countless other Canadians prove otherwise. Furthermore, a public opinion poll released last year showed overwhelming support for organ and tissue donation. However, only about half of respondents had actually made the decision to donate their organs at the time of death. Taking the next step to actually register one's intention to donate is crucial to keeping pace with demand.

It is predicted that the need for organs will more than double over the next two decades. Further, at age 20, a person is approximately five times more likely to need an organ transplant in his or her lifetime than to become a deceased donor. With an aging population, with rising diabetes rates and ensuing risk of kidney failure, and with advancing medical technology that makes transplants more possible, it is important to keep up with demand. Just the fact that the number of Canadians living with kidney failure tripled over the past 20 years should be a wake-up call to us all.

We have seen the impact of one of our own parliamentary colleagues in need of an organ transplant in the prime of his years. The time to donate is now.

I understand that two new national organ registries are expected to be launched early next year, one for hard to match kidney patients and one for all non-kidney patients across Canada suffering end stage organ failure. This is extremely important and shows our government's leadership.

These upcoming registries, along with a living donor paired exchange registry, are good news for patients waiting for an organ transplant, However, without donors, too many patients will continue to suffer needlessly.

This government recognizes the need to continue to improve organ donation. There is no doubt about it. That is why our government, along with our provincial and territorial partners, asked Canadian Blood Services to develop a plan for an integrated organ and tissue donation and transplantation system.

Provincial and territorial governments are currently reviewing Canadian Blood Services call to action, which includes its proposals to improve the performance of the donation and transplantation system in Canada. That is how our government is showing massive leadership in this area. We expect these proposals to be made public in the spring of 2012. Again, our government acknowledges that we can and will continue to improve organ donation in Canada.

I invite all members to join me in encouraging our fellow citizens to sign the donor card and discuss their intention to donate with their loved ones. By taking this next step, we can contribute to the inspirational stories of patients getting a second chance at life. I must say that it is so critical because in my own family my husband had to have a stem cell donor. I cannot say how heart-rendering it is to wait and wait for a donor.

I am very proud that our government has taken a giant step forward in collaboration with the provinces and territories to improve the donor registries that we need so badly and are developing so quickly in this country.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

9 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Madam Chair, does the Conservative member believe that the federal government can play a key role in awareness campaigns on television, in the print media, such as newspapers, or on posters that could be placed in hospitals and other public places?

This will get people thinking about organ donation. One strategy could involve having a place on federal forms where people could register as organ donors. If there were a Canada-wide awareness campaign, people would have to think about it. They could discuss it and would be more aware of organ donation.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

9 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Chair, as my colleague knows and what has been mentioned earlier, the actual delivery of health care is under provincial jurisdiction. The safety of the actual organs is in the federal jurisdiction. However, as I outlined in my speech earlier, the collaboration in all fields needs to be between federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions. Not only that, it needs to be with each Canadian citizen. That is why earlier I asked my colleagues what they can do. We need to have the big picture through the federal, provincial and territorial collaboration that is happening now.

It is happening now when we hear about the national living donor registry that is in place right now. I heard one of my colleagues say that nothing has happened in the last five years. Lots have happened in the last five years. More has happened in the last five years than ever before. This is collaboration between the federal, provincial and individual Canadians. We are all responsible to ensure that everybody knows that kidneys and other organs are needed to save lives.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

9 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Madam Chair, the thing about organ donation is that there is organ donation when we are living and there is post-mortem organ donation.

One of the problems we find with organ donations from living donors is that people tend to do this for family members who are in dire straits. It is a difficult thing for people to give up one of two organs because they are always afraid. They wonder what will happen to them in 20 years' time if they suddenly find they have a problem with the remaining organ and they do not have another one to kick in.

Everyone has been talking about different ways of dealing with this issue. One of the ways would be for public education and public awareness. However, does the member see any incentives for encouraging people to want to donate organs? I know some countries have incentive plans. What does the member think?

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

9 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Chair, I know my colleague, being a medical doctor, is very well aware of the challenges that people have in this area. It takes every Canadian to be aware of the need for these organ donations and to put the fear factor away where so many people are afraid to donate.

I was quite surprised to find, when I came to Parliament Hill and out there in the community, how little I knew, how little the public as a whole knew and how little parliamentarians knew and know about organ donation or stem cell donation. As the member so eloquently put, often it is a family member, or something that happens within a family, that causes almost a forced awareness. In our busy lives there are so many things to do, with jobs and everyday life, that we often are not confronted with that.

This is a dialogue that needs to be here in Parliament on an ongoing basis. It needs to be between the provinces, the territories and the federal government, and, as we are doing this evening, we need to put the spotlight on the urgency of organ donation for our country.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

9:05 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Chair, understanding that researchers met in Montreal awhile ago to discuss research in transplantation, what were the key challenges that were identified and what were some of the recommendations, if the member could enlighten us, on the CIHR transplantation workshop and how to best address the challenges through research?

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

9:05 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Chair, I would be very pleased to do that.

Every year, thousands of Canadians receive transplants of solid organs, stem cells and pancreatic islet cells. End stage renal, liver, lung, heart, pancreatic and small intestinal failures are now treated by organ replacement. For cancer, stem cell transplantation can be a cure. However, there are currently more than 4,000 Canadians on wait lists for organ transplants and far more than can be accommodated by the current rate of organ donation. Achieving a good quality of life for these patients remains a challenge.

The CIHR transplant workshop participants identified the need to improve both the quality and quantity of living and deceased donor organs, and improve our understanding of the mechanisms and pathways mediating transplantation related infection inflammation. These kinds of challenges have happened after an organ transplant. Even some of the drugs that are used toward ensuring there is no rejection is a challenge as well.

Overcoming the rejection and establishing long-term tolerance to grafts are an important aspect to this. Tacrolimus is a drug that my husband had some challenges with when he had his transplant. Further recommendations are developing improved therapeutics to sustain graft survival with few adverse side effects and expediting their uptake into clinical practice, establishing tailored transplantation polices and programs for children and other vulnerable populations, and developing national standards of clinical care and mechanisms for the long-term follow up of Canadian transplant recipients. This was a very important workshop in Montreal.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

9:05 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Chair, I wonder if the member has any personal stories.

Besides the staff member that we were talking about who is looking for a transplant, I have a friend who had a kidney transplant. It was very difficult because her daughter donated her organ and, to this day, she is very grateful. However, she has a very difficult time accepting the drugs.

Is there anything the member would care to share personally to remind people how important it is and that side effects and impacts of the drugs are indeed a problem. My friend has a lot of difficulty. Her bones are very fragile. I wonder if there is something that she would like to expand on in that area.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

9:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Chair, the effects of drugs from a transplant can be very horrendous. My husband underwent a stem cell transplant and waited a very long time to get a donor. Eventually, the donor came from abroad. The effects of drugs, like tacrolimus, which is one he took, can cause lots of things, like essential tremors. It can make the heart and kidneys very fragile. It was a stem cell to overcome cancer. There are many types. We have talked about kidney donations tonight but there are many other types of donations.

These are extremely big challenges and ones that people need to be aware of. That is why having this workshop in Montreal and going over these very important aspects of donation is of paramount importance.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

9:10 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Chair, it is not exactly a delight, but I am really pleased that we are having this very important debate tonight.

Organ donation is not what typical Canadians are running around thinking about, especially at this time of the year. They are busy working, some of them two or three jobs. They are busy trying to get ready for Christmas, looking after their children. Normally this kind of conversation does not enter our households unless we have a family member or a friend who is impacted.

For 4,000 Canadians who are waiting for an organ transplant to save their lives, tonight's debate is very critical, not only for those who are waiting for the organ transplant but for every member in the family and for all the friends. Therefore, the circle of concern widens.

For many of us, as we listen to the debate tonight, it brings home to us the importance of us shining the light on this issue. Who knows, one of us may need an organ transplant one day. We would never wish that on anyone, but we never know. That is the kind of conversation we need to have.

Canadians are very generous and very giving. I am very proud that in Canada we do not allow the sale of organs for transplants. We have a lot to be proud of. Despite that, there is no incentive, but the incentive that exists is the one of giving that comes from the heart, and Canadians give. We have to find a way, not just in Parliament, but at every dining room table, at every water cooler, at every coffee stand, all over the country, where people are consciously having a conversation about organ donation.

I heard a colleague mention earlier that years ago there was a form we filled in and there was a mark on our driver's licence. We knew that we had time to think about it.

However, when we look at how many people are waiting for organ transplants and how many are actually performed each year, only 1,803 were performed last year and many people were left waiting. They go into the evening and their families never know if their loved one is going to make it to the next day, or to the next week. It is that kind of angst that we need to have a discussion about, because it is only when people hear about the real stories that they are then moved. That is how Canadians are. They hear of a need and they will rise to the occasion.

I must be honest that I am always in absolute awe of those who give one of their organs, for example, a kidney, while they are still alive. It always brings tears to my eyes because I cannot think of a greater sacrifice one would make for a loved one, or a stranger or a friend than to give one's organ, not knowing what the future holds in store.

When we look for heroes in our lives, those people are true heroes. With a bit more education, there would be more heroes. I remember a few years ago there was the case of a very young person needing a kidney and people from all over were phoning in, emailing, asking to be tested to see if they were compatible.

I think that kind of generosity will occur once people get engaged in this conversation. When the light is shone on the real impact on the lifestyle of that person who is waiting and the impact it has on his or her family, it moves people. It is going to move them far more than technical reports and appeals from politicians, even parliamentarians. Most of them are not going to be moved by us. We can shine the light on those stories. We can send communication out and we should.

However, at the end of the day, what moves Canadians to give is when stories touch their heart. That is one aspect of what we need to do. The other aspect is the absolute need for an integrated, coordinated national registry, not only of the donors but the recipients who are waiting for an organ as well.

I absolutely agree there needs to be some form of an independent panel that makes the determination if a kidney becomes available and there are six or seven people who are a match. I would not want to make that decision. It should not be made by a roll of a dice or by who made the first phone call.

Those people need to be skilled, to have the medical knowledge and the expertise so they can make the determination, giving it to the person who is the most needy at that time. We are going to get into the situation where six or seven people match and there is only one kidney. That decision has to be made. I would hate to see those kinds of decisions being made by who got an email in first. That is not how this should be.

We are not talking about widgets, or buying flowers or buying groceries or a TV set. We are talking about a life-giving organ. Because of that, I would really want to there to be some very tight guidelines.

All of us have stories of people in our lives who have waited for organs or who suffer some form of kidney failure and need dialysis. I have a very dear friend, and I do not know how she has managed over the last great number of years, going in, having dialysis and getting right to work. She is leading a productive life, supporting her kids, while all the time she is waiting for a donor.

I think this is where I absolutely agree that we do have a role as parliamentarians. We all do have outreach. We all connect in our communities. It is something we can do to create and encourage space for these conversations to occur. These are not the kinds of conversations that are Twitter friendly. These kinds of conversations have to be much deeper.

When I go home and sit down with my grandchildren, it is a conversation I want to have with them. By having that conversation with them, they will then start to think about this and will have that conversation outside as well. If all of us were to commit to start that circle of conversation and watch that circle grow, it would be great. We are going to have an opportunity to go to so many events.

I would not really recommend, if members are out for at Christmas do and somebody is about to toast, merry Christmas or happy new year, that they say “Stop, let us talk about organ donation”. We all know we have to find the right moment, and we will all do that.

There is a quote from the Canadian Blood Services that I would like to read into the record. It states:

Canada is one of the only countries in the western world without a national, coordinated system for organ and tissue donation and transplantation...The system as it stands today is at capacity, and is struggling to cope with current needs and projected future demand.

It is really important that even though health care is a provincial issue, and we all know that, that organ donation in Canada also has to be a national issue, coordinated with the provinces. We have a huge country with a huge geography, but we have a very small population. When a country has a very small population, a national strategy becomes really critical.

I would invite all parliamentarians, as they go into their communities, to look for spaces to create this conversation. Let us have the will here to have a national registry.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

9:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Chair, is the member aware that there is a national registry? The living donor exchange is a national registry.

The delivery of health care is a provincial matter, but the federal government takes care of the safety of the actual organs. Our government, along with our provincial and territorial partners, has asked the Canadian Blood Services to develop a plan for an integrated organ and tissue donation and transportation system. That speaks to what my colleague said in her speech. She is extremely aware that this has to be done.

Perhaps my colleague could expand on that because this request has already been made by our government. I do not know if my colleague is aware of that or not, but it should reinforce the need for this to happen. I am proud our government is doing that.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

9:20 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Absolutely, Mr. Chair. We have taken some steps in the right direction. The reason we are having this debate tonight is because we need to do more. Because we need to do more and do it more quickly, we have given up our evening to take part in this important debate.

I am not saying that the provinces are being cut out of this. They have a role to play, but so does the federal government, civil society groups, parliamentarians and Canadian citizens.

It is of very little solace to a person who is waiting for an organ to know that we have a long-term plan. We need to make plans, but we also need to move quickly so thousands of people are not kept waiting.

One of the key areas, and my colleague from Vancouver East covered this earlier as well, is for us to raise awareness, to create space, so we can have these conversations and raise our consciousness about this.

There is going to be cultural sensitivity about this and we need to take a look at that. However, more than cultural sensitivity, there is also personal fear sensitivity. We all have some of those fears, so we need to shine the light on those and have honest conversations about them.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

9:25 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Chair, I would like to thank my colleague for speaking so openly and from her heart about organ donation. She talked about raising awareness, about information and public education, and about creating space to have conversations. Does she think the federal government should play a role as catalyst in the campaign to raise awareness about organ donation, as the reports suggested in 1999? We need a long-term campaign to raise awareness. There have been only two, one in 2001 and one in 2002, and then nothing. No more has been said about it. Organ donations are needed every day of every year. An awareness campaign has to go on over a long period of time.

Health Canada has a very clear mandate to design and carry out awareness campaigns. This is one of the actions the government can take within its jurisdiction, in partnership with the provinces and community organizations, which can circulate this sensitive information and give people accurate information. An awareness campaign would debunk myths and reassure people about organ donation, and presenting them with personal accounts or scientific information would enable them to understand the benefits of participating in an organ donation program.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

9:25 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Chair, I want to thank my colleague for taking part in this debate and for the excellent question that she asked.

I absolutely agree there is a role for individuals to play, but there is also a role for government to play. Sometimes we wait until we are almost at a crisis point before we think it is a good time to have that conversation.

When somebody is in the emergency room or the intensive care unit and the family is gathered around to say their final farewells, it is not a good time to be talking about organ donation. If I were in that situation, I would be more concerned about saying my farewell to my loved one lying in the bed. The last thing I would need at that moment, no matter how logical and necessary it is, would be to talk about this. It is why a registry, getting consent and being prepared are so important.

We often hear of ambulance chasers in other countries who are looking for organs. We are not that kind of a country. We do not do that here. Because of that we have an extended duty to encourage the conversation to raise Canadians' awareness. I believe that once Canadians know, they will listen to their heart and give up parts of their bodies to help their loved ones and strangers.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

9:25 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Chair, I would like some clarification and to ask a question.

The member opposite was talking about the first phone call and that the first person served gets the kidney. Organ donation or stem cell donation are a little more complicated than that. To get a match is extremely difficult.

We searched far and wide in our family. It was two and a half years before my husband actually got a match. It was five years from the time he first learned of the cancer. Then all sorts of things have to be done. Is it a compatible match? All sorts of things happen. It is not first come, first served at all. It is a registry.

As I said in my speech, there are two registries that are forming in Canada. One is for the hard to match kidney, and one is for all non-kidney patients across Canada. On top of that, there is the living donor registry.

However, we need to do more and that is why we are here tonight. That is why we are putting the spotlight and focus on it.

Is the member aware that this will be a good step forward? Is there anything else she would like to add to that?

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

9:30 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Chair, first of all, I thank the member for that clarification. When I was talking about first come, first served, I meant after all the assessments had been done. If there should happen to be three or four matches, there should be a clear way to determine who gets the organ.

We are all here to talk about what we can do together. This is not about what one person or another has done. For me this is about how we take this forward in a collaborative manner. The lives of people's loved ones are at stake.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

9:30 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Chair, I too am very pleased to be participating in this debate this evening.

Canadians are familiar with the inspiring stories we hear of organ transplantation today, stories of generous donors like Debbie Pemberton of British Columbia. The Vancouver Sun reported that she became a living donor when she donated one of her kidneys. Debbie's gift was in memory of her nephew, whose organs were donated when he died at the age of three.

Many of us in this chamber will know of people who have benefited from an organ transplant. Some of us may even have family or friends who have received a successful transplant. Unfortunately, we are also familiar with the stories of patients who are unable to find a suitable donor in time, or patients who spend years on transplant waiting lists for a suitable donor. We know that Canadians desperately in need of organ transplants would benefit immensely from an increased availability of organs, as well as cells and tissues, in Canada. What we may know less about is how the government contributes to protecting the interests and health of organ recipients and their donors.

It is important to ensure that the risks of organ donation are understood and managed. We not only need to ask ourselves how to increase the supply of organs, we also need to consider how we as a society ensure that organ donation is safe. The safety of human organs for transplantation is a responsibility that is shared among the federal, provincial and territorial governments and health care professionals. The government supports a strong and safe system for organ donation and transplantation. In particular, Health Canada has acted to put in place strict science-based regulatory requirements which help to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B. These regulatory requirements help make the Canadian transplant system one of the safest in the world.

The federal government is responsible for overseeing the safe processing and distribution of donated organs. To meet this responsibility, Health Canada put in place the safety of human cells, tissues and organs for transplantation regulations. The intent of these regulations is to minimize potential health risks. They contain requirements relating to important issues such as the screening and testing of donors, record keeping, and the investigation of averse reactions. Each of these requirements has a direct impact on organ safety.

In all decisions regarding organ donation, the safety of recipients of transplantation is paramount. The safety of human cells, tissues and organs for transplantation regulations is one of the tools used to achieve this objective. The regulations also ensure patients and their doctors have the latitude to make decisions based on the medical imperatives they face.

Donor screening and testing also fall under the mandate of the federal government. Canadians can be confident that these federal regulations and standards in donor screening help to prevent the risk of transmitting infectious diseases to recipients. The safety of human cells, tissues and organs for transplantation regulations require organ donor organizations and organ transplant establishments such as hospitals to register with Health Canada. They must comply with the regulations and meet minimum safety standards.

They are also subject to inspection by Health Canada officials. These establishments must show the organ is safe for transplantation. This is based on predetermined criteria that can be found in the regulations. Minimizing the risk of transmitting infectious disease is not only important to the recipient, but also to Canadian society as a whole. I am speaking here of preventable cases of HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B.

Safe transplantation reduces the risk of transmission of these diseases, the heartbreak this presents to patients and the burden such transmission would place on the Canadian health care system. In the event that a suspected transmission of disease through organ transplantation is reported, the federal government also plays a role by investigating and ensuring appropriate steps are taken to address the incident.

As we all know, the availability of organs for transplantation is much lower than the demand for those organs. This is a pressing concern for patients, their families and the medical community. For some patients, having to wait a few extra hours for an organ can mean the difference between life and death.

Health Canada is aware that the right balance between the demand for safe organs and the need to ensure their availability for transplantation is essential. The safety of human cells, tissues and organs for transplantation regulations were designed to enhance safety but not present a barrier to organ transplant.

Organ transplant recipients all have at least one thing in common: they have a significant health issue that threatens their life or quality of life. The reality is that most organ recipients face a long recovery period. They may also face a lifetime of medical interventions, including medications to prevent their bodies from rejecting transplanted organs. These medications generally suppress the body's own immune system, reducing its ability to respond to and fight infections.

This is not an easy subject we have before us this evening. Organ transplantation presents many challenges and responsibilities for patients, the medical profession and for society. Each year, some 2,000 organs are transplanted in Canada. However, we continue to have a chronic shortage of organs available for transplant. Every year, up to 300 Canadians die while waiting for donated organs.

I am sure that all members of the House agree that organ donation either from a deceased donor or by a living donor is a highly personal decision for donors or for families faced with the death of a loved one. Today we can help them with that decision. We can ensure that Canadians understand that one additional organ and tissue donor can help up to 80 Canadians improve their health or perhaps save a life. This is because organ and tissue donation today is about more than the high profile cases we see in the media. It is also about cornea transplants, bone grafts, skin, tissues and much more.

Think of what we could achieve if each of us is able to help one family. Think of the Canadians who are on waiting lists today who could enjoy improved health or even the gift of a prolonged life. Even better, think of a Canada which is able to provide organs and tissues to the global donations network.

Canadians can achieve these goals. I encourage every member of the House to do one thing today, even if it is only to post the link of Canadian Blood Services on his or her website to help Canadians better understand how they might help strengthen the organ and tissue donation in Canada.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

9:35 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Chair, my colleague made a very insightful speech on this very important topic.

The federal government is responsible for the safety of donated organs from the perspective of product safety. The safety of human cells, tissues and organs for transplant regulations, the CTO regulations, came into force on December 7, 2007. How did Health Canada consult with stakeholders on these new regulations?

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

9:40 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Chair, I thank my colleague for the insight that she has provided on this very important issue, certainly from her own personal experience.

The safety of human cells, tissues and organs for transplantation regulations, or CTO regulations as my colleague referred to them, came into force on December 2007 as she stated. The purpose of the CTO regulations are to minimize the potential health risks to Canadian recipients of human CTO. Prior to the coming into force of these regulations, Health Canada had extensive consultations and communications with stakeholders to provide guidance and clarification on the basic safety requirements with regard to the processing and distributing of human CTO used in transplantation. The CTO regulations are based on the national standard and were developed using a risk-management approach, as well as information obtained during extensive consultations with the provinces, territories and transplantation experts. The national standard has been made available and is a model for other nations through international regulatory co-operation.

Following these extensive collaborations with experts in the field, federal and provincial governments and interested stakeholders on the content of proposed regulations took place. The national standard was published in June 2003 by the Canadian Standards Association, the CSA.

To meet the requirement for public consultation in the development of national standards, the CSA posted each of the draft standards on its website for a 60 day comment period, in addition to distributing copies to individuals and organizations who expressed an interest. As they were drafted through a consensus development process, the national standard met the requirements of the Standards Council of Canada, having provided multiple opportunities for Canadians to express their points of view and/or their concerns about these standards.

Health Canada then began to draft federal regulations around these standards to make portions of them mandatory by law under the Food and Drugs Act.

Significant consultation with stakeholders occurred during the entire regulatory drafting process. The regulations were published for a 75 day consultation period prior to their implementation.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

9:40 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Chair, my Conservative colleague and I both sit on the Standing Committee on Health. I expect that she is familiar with the latest science and is sensitive to all health-related matters.

What is my colleague’s opinion about the fact that men who have had sex with another man in the last five years are systematically considered to be in the at-risk group for organ donation?

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

9:40 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Chair, we know there are many groups at risk when it comes to transplantation and the issues that individuals face within their lives. We also know that organ transplantation presents challenges and responsibilities.

Many of us know of individuals who have benefited from an organ transplant and we know there are those who continue to wait for organ transplants. We know that Canadians would benefit immensely from an increased availability of organs as well as cells and tissues in Canada.

What we need to do is balance the increase in the supply of organs and ensure that organ donation is safe. Our government is very aware that striking the right balance between need and safe transplantation is essential.

Organ DonationsGovernment Orders

9:45 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Chair, I would like to follow up a little on the question my colleague asked.

We know that people who have had homosexual relations are discriminated against when it comes to giving blood. I was gratified by my colleague’s comment. However, I did not think that the hon. member's reply was very clear as to her position on this subject.

Will homosexual individuals who have had homosexual relations in the previous five years continue to be discriminated against? Is she considering having a plan for the future so these people can be on an equal footing with others?