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.