Discussing End of Life Wishes: Organ Donation

 In Wills and Estates Law

According to the Trillium Gift of Life Network, 90% of Ontarian are in favour of organ donation but only one in three Ontarians have registered their consent to donate.  These figures match up with statistics for the rest of the country as well.  The Organ Project, a not-for-profit organization focused on ending the organ transplant waiting list, states that while 90% of Canadians are in favour of organ donation, less than 20% have made plans to donate.  There are approximately 4,500 people waiting for an organ transplant in Canada, and The Organ Project estimates that around 260 Canadians will die each year waiting for a transplant.  That’s one person every 30 hours or so.

These statistics align with the conversations I have with my clients when we’re discussing end of life wishes and intentions.  When we are discussing their Power of Attorney for Personal Care, I ask my clients if they are registered as organ donors.  Many clients reply that they are not registered or that they aren’t sure if they are registered, but most clients indicate that they intend to or wish to be an organ donor.  In Ontario we have an “opt-in” system for organ donation, meaning that if you intend to be an organ donor, your must register your consent online.

Another Canadian province, Nova Scotia, has become the first place in North America to switch from an opt-in registry to an opt-out.  Adult Nova Scotians will now have to register if they do not wish to be an organ donor.  By all accounts, the change has been well-received and according to a recent article by the CBC, 10 days after the law was implemented only one percent of the population had opted out.  While that’s expected to rise slightly over time, it is expected that the rate of donation will increase.

As someone who practices in the area of wills and estates, the discussion around organ donation highlights the importance of two things: planning for end of life and talking about your end of life wishes with your loved ones.  While discussing death may not be comfortable or pleasant, you will be doing a service to your loved ones by ensuring that your intentions are clear and documented.  Appointing an Attorney for Personal Care and discussing your beliefs and values with your loved ones, will help ensure that your wishes are carried out.

If you are in Ontario and wish to be an organ donor, you can visit beadonor.ca to register.

This blog post was written by Kate Wright, a member of the Family Law, Wills and Estates and Litigation teams.  She can be reached at 613-369-0383 or at kate.wright@mannlawyers.com.

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