moved that Bill C-223, An Act to establish the Canadian Organ Donor Registry and to coordinate and promote organ donation throughout Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, I wish to speak today in support of my Bill C-223, an act to establish the Canadian organ donor registry and to coordinate and promote organ donation throughout Canada, which I hope will receive support from all members of the House.
As you may be aware, I myself am an organ donor. In 2003, I made a living donation. I gave part of my liver to my son Tyler. This was not something I did lightly. It is a dangerous operation for both the donor and the recipient.
For Tyler, it was life or death. I love my son. The choice was easy.
At that time, I was becoming increasingly aware of the unmet need for organ donations in Canada. There are literally thousands of people waiting for that telephone call that will change their lives and the lives of their family members. Tragically, for more than 200 Canadians each year, the time runs out before the call comes.
More than 90% of Canadians support organ and tissue donation in theory, but less than 25% have made plans to donate. Canada's organ donation rate is among the world's worst, yet one donor can benefit more than 75 people and save up to 8 lives.
Sometimes, organ compatibility is not enough. Shortly after that transplant, the portion of my liver that Tyler received began to die. For me to donate again was not possible. Another donor was needed or my son would die.
On Christmas Eve 2003, it looked like Tyler's time had run out. His life expectancy was now days, perhaps hours. Almost miraculously, a liver became available from a Quebec man who had just died. We were told it was not a perfect solution. It would only buy time, but time was what we desperately needed.
My wife Liz and I were so thankful to the family of that anonymous donor. In their grief at the loss of a loved one, they cared enough to think of others. We will be forever in their debt. Their gift gave us our son when we thought we would lose him.
Having experienced the organ donation system first-hand, I became acutely aware of the need for a more coordinated effort in this area, both locally and nationally. I became an advocate for all those like Tyler, those in need of a life-saving transplant. All too often, it seems to me, the difference between life and death is one of simple awareness. People do not know the good they could do. Such awareness is key.
While some provinces have a large percentage of citizens who have indicated they wish to be organ donors, others have very few, far below the national average. As I stated earlier, Canada is far behind other countries in the percentage of citizens who have let authorities know of their willingness to be organ donors. I have been told by many of the people I have met who work in this area of medicine that there is a real need for a national registry, such as is proposed in this bill. Representatives of awareness groups, health care organizations working in the transplant field, and donor and recipient families have been overwhelmingly positive in responding to the bill. Everyone I have met with has had one simple question: how can we help?
To return to my story, with Tyler's second transplant, our journey was not yet over. We knew in 2003 that the liver he received was not a long-term solution. After a decade it too began to fail. Once more we entered the medical system, our emotions a mixture of hope and fear. There were no guarantees. We knew the statistics. We knew the odds. We prayed yet again for a miracle.
Once again a grieving family offered a loved one's organs for the good of the community, and a match was made. This time we hope Tyler has a liver that will be with him for the rest of his life. We are so grateful to have a healthy son, now a young man beginning to make his way in the world, someone of whom we are very proud.
Our good fortune brings with it a sense of not only gratitude but also responsibility. I firmly believe that it is incumbent on each of us to give back to our community, to work to make it a better place. Tyler's health problems have caused me to become an advocate for increased awareness of the need for organ donations in Canada. I promised myself and him that if the day should ever come when I would have the opportunity to make a positive difference on a national level, I would do so. The time to do that is now, and I hope I have members' support.
Why this bill at this time? What need would it serve?
This legislation would serve a huge need. In 2014, for example, 2,433 solid organs were transplanted in Canada. That is a 25% increase since 2009. These transplanted organs included 1,430 kidneys, 537 livers, 226 lungs, 161 hearts, and 79 pancreases.
One of the things a national registry would do is improve the wait times for Canadians who need a transplant. Right now that can vary considerably from province to province. If an individual needs a new kidney, for example, it can take more than four years to make it to the top of the list. If an individual needs a new lung, that could take 19 months.
Far too often people on the transplant list do not live to receive a donation. The number of patients on the waiting list for kidney transplants is approximately two and a half times higher than the number of transplants performed. More than 1,600 Canadians are added to wait-lists each year. The demand for organs is increasing, but the supply is not maintaining the pace. We are falling behind.
Transplantation is expensive, but there is a quality-of-life issue as well for those in need, and as it turns out, the cost to our health care system is actually lessened by transplantation. Once a patient receives a transplant, that patient can return to a relatively normal existence, their extreme medical difficulties behind them. For example, a kidney transplant candidate is very likely to be on dialysis, a procedure that will no longer be necessary after the patient receives a new kidney. That saving alone can be about $50,000 annually. Medical treatment should not be about dollars and cents, but it is good to know that we can do the right thing and save money for taxpayers at the same time.
An integrated system such as proposed by the bill would have a major impact on patient outcomes. This registry would facilitate organ donations in all of the provinces and territories and greatly assist medical professionals in providing timely aid for those in need, saving lives in the process.
A national organ registry has been discussed for years. Now is the time to do something about it. We have the opportunity to do something positive that will save Canadian lives. That, it seems to me, is what Parliament should be doing.
Without a national registry, it is all too easy to imagine someone not receiving the gift of life simply because the need was not known. When a kidney, lung, or heart becomes available on one side of the country, doctors should instantly be aware on the other side.
A national donor registry would give the gift of time to health care professionals. With many transplant opportunities being time-sensitive surgical procedures, anything that can save hours or minutes in uniting donors and recipients is going to be a literal lifesaver.
The time for talking about a national organ donor registry is over. It is time for action.