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Ontario Addresses Shortage of Transplant Organs

Ontario will soon become the first province in Canada to start accepting transplant organs from people who have died of heart failure//.

The provincial agency in charge of organ and tissue donations announced that changes in guidelines that allowed accepting donation after cardio-circulatory death (DCD) could potentially expand the potential donor pool by hundreds.

This move to permit donations after DCD came following the request of an Ottawa family to fulfill their daughters wish to become an organ donor she became hospitalized and on life support suffering from heart failure following a sudden illness. When the family decided to withdraw life support they approached the medical team at the Ottawa Hospital with the wishes of their daughter Sara Beth and urged them to take her kidneys.

"Donation after cardiac death ... marks a new era for organ donation in this wonderful country and that makes Sara Beth a pioneer -- way to go, sweetheart," her father Emile Therien said at a press conference at the Ottawa Hospital.

He expressed his hope that such organ donations will be become more commonplace in the near future and give more "families the opportunity to fulfill their loved ones' donations wishes."

Dr. Joe Pagliarello, medical director of Organ and Tissue Donation said, "This can't happen for every patient, in fact we probably estimate that this may be possible for perhaps an additional 25 per cent of our donors. I hope, in the future to make this happen for every family. We will then have achieved our objective.”

Until now doctors have only retrieved transplant organs from patients declared brain dead. Maintaining the donors’ organs until they can be transplanted follows this.

According to the federal Canadian Council for Donation and Transplantation the following criteria are recommended: an absence of a pulse, blood pressure and respiration for five minutes, before two physicians pronounce the patient dead and the organs eligible for consideration.

George Marcello, two-time liver transplant recipient and the founder of Step by Step, a group committed to increasing organ donor awareness, "It's long overdue. Ontario's the first here but I'm hoping it will spread right across the country."

In Ontario, there are nearly 1,800 patients waiting for an organ transplant. In 2004, 122 of them died.

But while 30,000 people die in Ontario hospitals ever year, only about 1.5 per cent of them meet the brain-dead criteria.

This new move could help to open the door to eligible cardiac-arrest patients thereby adding hundreds more donors to the pool.


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