Organ and Tissue Donation: Opt-in or Opt-Out?
December 13, 2016 By: Erin Lepine Read Time: 2 minutes
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Nelligan O’Brien Payne gratefully acknowledges the contribution of Natasha Chettiar, Student-at-Law in writing this blog post.

No province in Canada uses a presumed consent system for organ donation. Instead, the provinces have chosen the “opt-in” system, leaving it up to individuals to make the choice to donate.

However, on Tuesday November 29, 2016, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall told reporters the provincial government wants to move toward a presumed consent system for organ donations. In a presumed consent – or “opt-out” – system, donation would occur automatically, unless a person requested their organs not be donated.

So, which is better? In or out?

With less than 1% of Saskatchewan’s population donating organs and/or tissue, the province is below the Canadian average for donors. Those in need of transplants are forced to go outside of the province. Would an opt-out system fix that? Is Saskatchewan better off pursuing a system that relies on inaction and that could potentially lead to individuals donating who never wished to become donors?

Spain has adopted an opt-out system that has drawn international attention. Under the Spanish model, there is presumed consent, but the country focuses on in-depth donation training for physicians so the doctor-going public is well-informed of their options. Interestingly, Spanish donation rates did not rise when they implemented opting out. Rather, donation rates rose when Spain changed its approach to training doctors and public education.

Ontario health officials have considered the Spanish model, but the province has chosen to keep the opt-in system.

What’s the best option? Does the opt-in system rely too heavily on individual action? Is the opt-out model too distasteful? Is it ethical? Does the Spanish model’s education-centric approach make the opt-out model more viable?

Clearly, Premier Brad Wall has decided that a change to the system is needed in his province. If nothing else, his call for presumed consent might raise awareness of organ donation both in Saskatchewan and throughout Canada.

To become an official organ and tissue donor in Ontario, visit our page on the BeADonor.ca website, and follow the simple steps provided on the page to register. And to learn more about the benefits of donation, take a look at our previous blog post Help Us Save More Lives by Registering to Be a Donor.

If you have any further questions, contact our Wills and Estates Group.

This content is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion as neither can be given without reference to specific events and situations. © 2017 Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.
This content is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion as neither can be given without reference to specific events and situations. © 2020 Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.

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