Some Nova Scotians who signed off on having their organs donated have had their wishes blocked or, in some cases, never even pursued.
Health Minister Maureen MacDonald confirmed yesterday that even though the provincial law states an individual who signs an organ donation card must have their wishes granted, that is often not the case in practice.
Health officials have been asking family members for consent, said MacDonald. In some cases, family members deny the donation over the patient’s wishes. In other cases, health officials don’t even ask family members for fear they’re too upset, and no organ transfer is pursued.
“Right now the legislation prohibits the overriding of a person’s wish by family, yet we do that all the time if family really object,” MacDonald said.
About 120 people are on the province’s organ donation wait list, including children.
Nova Scotia has one of the highest registered organ donor rates in the country at about 60 per cent of the population.
The health department has posted new draft legislation on its website for public consultation. The act mandates health staff to always ask guardians or family about organ donation instead of the current “hit or miss” system.
It also more clearly specifies that an organ donor’s wishes must be followed, but MacDonald still doesn’t expect that will always happen.
She said she wasn’t sure if Nova Scotians would want to get rid of a family override.
“You know, the public may come back and want a more, I suppose, heavy-handed approach, but I don’t know that and this is partly why we’re doing consultation,” she said.
The new bill does not pursue the avenue of presumed consent, where an individual must opt out of organ donation instead of opting in.
“As far as I’m aware there are no jurisdictions that have presumptive consent,” said MacDonald.