Vital discussion on life-saving issue

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Advances over the decades in organ and tissue transplants have been amazing. The other side of such progress is encouraging people to register as donors, and that’s a campaign that can always use a boost.

We’re just coming to the end of National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week. Hard to say if it was planned, but the Nova Scotia government is pondering measures to see that this vital, life-changing, life-saving system has the support it deserves.

Organ and tissue transplants rely on people who have agreed in advance to donate, in the event of their demise. But in Nova Scotia – the same as in other provinces – donation rates could use improvement.

Health Minister Leo Glavine said Thursday the government is considering legislating a reverse onus policy – in other words, organs could be used unless the person has declined. But before going ahead with any official discussion of such change they want to know what the public thinks. Details of how the health department will do that are still forthcoming.

Other provinces have implemented methods to make the process of donation easier.

But reverse onus? No matter how noble the cause, it’s not hard to imagine some people with grave reservations. But this idea is worth floating to the public, if for nothing more than to raise the profile of a vital health care process and get people thinking about it.

The decision to donate – a designation made on your health card – is easy for some people. For others, even if they would be willing, it’s perhaps a subject they’d rather not think about – and for that reason only, the wish isn’t made known.

Also, as Glavine mentions, the last hours of a loved one’s life are a sensitive time to discuss the subject with family.

A successful organ transplant faces all sorts of challenges – such as a right match at the right time, distances and of course donors. This discussion is due, and will have the added bonus of encouraging people to make their wishes known.

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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