There are over 4,000 people in Canada right now who are waiting for a solid-organ transplant. If they receive the organ or organs they need, their lives could be saved or greatly enhanced.
The number of transplants performed in Canada is over 2,000, a number that has remained virtually the same in recent years. The need for organ and tissue donations will only rise over time due to our aging population. The last decade has also seen an increase in the need for organ donation. For example, the incidence of end-stage renal disease has increased quite a bit, causing an increase in the demand for kidney donation.
A new lung may turn their gasping breaths into effortless ones; a new liver or kidney could cleanse their bodies of waste; a new cornea could bring into focus their blurred vision.
At the same time, if would-be recipients don’t undergo an organ transplant, death or protracted illness may be the result.
Almost 300 Canadians die each year while waiting for an organ transplant. Underlying this unfortunate statistic is the fact that Canada has one of the lowest rates of organ donation in the industrialized world. About 16 in every million people in Canada donate, which pales in comparison with countries such as France, Spain, and the United States, which have donor rates ranging from 26 to 36 per million.
The following table shows the discrepancy between the number of people waiting for an organ and the actual number who underwent a transplant in Canada.
The low donor rate has partly led to demand outstripping the supply. But when the supply is there, lives are forever altered. Thanks to advances in medical technology and surgeon training, many forms of transplants are performed with high success rates. In Canada, the average success rate of adults is between 85% and 90%.
The main organs and tissues donated after a person dies are kidneys, corneas, heart, liver, lungs, pancreas, bowel, bone, eye tissue, and skin.
There is no age restriction dictating who can and cannot donate their organs. Nothing regarding your final wishes upon your death (i.e., funeral arrangements) changes, and there is no additional charge to you or your family. Your general health and underlying medical history are more important in determining whether or not you could donate your organs. And don’t underestimate their usefulness – even if you wear glasses because of poor vision, for instance, you can still donate your corneas.
So why would you want to donate? Donated organs don’t just positively impact the life of the person who receives them, they may also bring purpose to the family of the donor. In fact, studies have shown that families who have donated the organs of a deceased relative feel comforted and consoled knowing their loss has served a dignified purpose.
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