Opposition Liberal Health Critic, Jean-Claude D’Amours today introduced an Act to Amend the Human Tissue Gift Act. The Act, also known as Avery’s Law proposes amendments that could see New Brunswick become the second jurisdiction in North America following Nova Scotia to operate its human tissue donation program under deemed consent. Currently, consent for organ and tissue donation may be given when New Brunswickers apply for or renew their Medicare registration.
“Today, there are over 140 New Brunswickers waiting for transplants,” said D’Amours. “The stress they and their families go through waiting to receive word of a positive match is extraordinary. Anything governments can do to improve tissue and organ donation will be received with great relief and renewed hope. For all of these New Brunswickers as represented by Avery Astle and his family, we urge the Higgs government to move forward with our amendments.”
Proposed amendments would allow for the establishment of a registry to record consents or refusals under the Act. The intention is that New Brunswickers aged 19 and over, who are not exempt, will be considered for organ and tissue donation, unless they opt out. New Brunswickers would register a decision to consent to donation of all or some organs and tissues (also called ‘express consent’) or opt out of donation. Those who choose not to register a decision will still be considered a potential donor, with a few exceptions. Under the proposed legislation, their decision will be deemed or considered to have been given. This is referred to as deemed consent.
“I am encouraged by the success of the implementation of deemed consent in the Province of Nova Scotia and understand that this legislation has already improved the lives of many Nova Scotians,” continued D’Amours. “Research indicates that moving to deemed consent in New Brunswick has the potential to improve the lives of 80 more New Brunswickers who are waiting for organ and tissue donations annually. Along with the New Brunswick Medical Society and the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Official Opposition believes this is absolutely the right thing to do.”
According to the most recent figures compiled by Canadian Blood Services, 250 Canadians died while waiting for a transplant in 2019 — an increase from 223 in 2018. They also showed that Canada still has a shortage of organs, with 4,419 patients still waiting for transplants at the end of 2019.
Spain, Wales, Croatia, Chile, France and Portugal are among many nations that have presumed consent systems. The World Health Organization reports that in jurisdictions with “opt-out” laws and where consent is presumed donation rates are 25 to 30 percent higher than in those countries requiring explicit consent.