Wednesday, February 28, 2007

China accused of organ harvesting --
The Irish Times

A US human rights lawyer has today accused the Chinese military of harvesting the organs of imprisoned Falun Gong members to sell to foreign customers.

The report claims that Falun Gong prisoners, jailed for membership of the outlawed spiritual group, are singled out for the transplants during which many of them die.

Mr David Matas presented his shocking findings at a public meeting in Trinity College Dublin and is due to present the information to an Oireachtas sub-committee on human rights tomorrow.

The report also claims transplant operations are routinely supplied in either military-run or military-staffed hospitals in China, despite there not existing an organ donation scheme in the country.

It says Falun Gong prisoners are given systematic blood tests and medical tests, while some hospitals have admitted they have Falun Gong organs for sale.

The report, co-written by former Canadian secretary of state for the Asia Pacific region David Kilgour, accuses China of state sponsorship of the practice. It claims the government has executed a large, but unknown, number of Falun Gong prisoners in the last five years, harvesting their organs for sale to foreign customers at high prices. It also accuses the government of building dedicated facilities for organ transplants without any identifiable source for transplants, other than prisoners.

Mr. Matas called for a series of government travel advisories and public information campaigns to explain that the source of organ transplants in China, with few exceptions, is prisoners. "The market for organs in China is determined by supply and demand. The supply is local, but the demand is, in large part, foreign. We must do everything we can to end this demand," he said.

Mr. Kilgour added: "Our investigations have found Canadians going to China for transplants from Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto. The numbers are increasing." Read the article in The Irish Times.

Monday, February 26, 2007

'Presumed consent' is wrong

according to this opinion article by Catherine Colton

The issue of Presumed Consent for organ donation in Ontario has recently become a much discussed topic and this timely opinion gives us much to consder when forming our views. Because of the intense interest I'm posting the entire article as written.

The Timmins Daily Press
Saturday, February 24, 2007

The issue of whether the government should decide for us if our organs can be donated to someone (after we've died, that is) raises quite a few moral questions, not the least of which is: Do we need the government to interfere in our private lives?

Should they ever interfere?

Is it alright for the government to legislate seatbelt use, for instance, or if and when and where we smoke?

How about abortion - is it in their jurisdiction, or should it remain a private matter? Where do we draw the line?

In other words, what is and is not the government's business?

Canada has one of the worst organ donation rates in the developed world, despite public opinion polls that indicate the vast majority of Canadians support it. This is much the same as blood donation. Canadians believe that about 26 per cent of us donate blood, when in fact the true number is three per cent.

It seems to me we have to be fairly careful about giving the government control over our own ethics, though.

After all, this is the same Big Brother that wears green ribbons in the House of Commons to signify, well ... concern over organ donation/transplantation and/or bipolar disease and/or environmental issues and/or Chechnyan solidarity and/or farmers of America!

Should we actually entrust such an important issue to them? One has to seriously wonder.

The Ontario government is in the position of either increasing the number of organs available for transplant, or paying for transplants out-of-province and/or out-of-country.

Health Minister George Smitherman is apparently very comfortable with making organ donation "presumed," although it's still the case that family physicians consult with the family first before going ahead with the already presumed consent.

Currently, the province does not reimburse those who go elsewhere to receive a transplant.

Those who need the help clearly cannot wait for it - it is truly a matter of life and death, and they aptly name it "the gift of life." The history of transplants is fairly long, dating back as far as the second century B.C., long before post-operative survival techniques were established.

They have ranged from skin to cornea, arteries and veins, kidneys and lungs, hearts and livers, even faces.

As modern immunosuppression techniques developed, so did survival rates - infections were reduced, drug therapy expenses have gone down and transplant patients' daily lives have improved dramatically.

This discussion really involves deceased donors.

Living donors are considered a separate topic entirely.

Living donors are largely family members or close friends, and are viewed by many physicians as the way of the future.

They are also considered by most to be clear examples of selflessness, kindness, generosity and goodness - doing right only for the sake of doing right.

But what the provincial government is attempting to address through its "Citizens Panel on Increasing Organ Donations" is what it terms "presumed consent" by deceased donors.

What this really means is that they're consulting with us (citizens) about increasing organ donations, but one has to wonder if they're trying to justify our giving our organs without our consent by cloaking it in a "panel."

Doesn't that sound a bit like trying to get us to care, and if we don't, then they'll just legislate it!?

Remember when the cable company tried this backward type of reasoning?

You know, you automatically were billed for every channel on Earth unless you contacted them to say you didn't want them all.

That's what the government is proposing - unless you opt out, your organs are available.

When you die, your remains are fair game. Do we really want this?

Such organizations as the Step by Step Organ Transplant Association have no qualms about requesting full provincial funding for out-of-province transplants. But it's no wonder - their members represent those who have been personally touched by tragedies resulting from a lack of available donors.

A recent decision by the Ontario Divisional Court in denying compensation has been ridiculed as disgraceful by them.

Who could expect them to feel any other way - they are in the middle of things and can't possibly make an impartial decision.

For those of us lucky enough to be considered outsiders looking in, however, it's about a host of other motivations such as:

Religion - what if you don't consider it ethical to remove organs for transplant;

Exploitation - what if you have no money and the only way to get it is by donating a kidney, for instance? Isn't that really just out and out coercion? What if your human rights are violated? For example in China, there are cases of organ harvesting from politician prisoners. What if it becomes just another money-making proposition? What if it's done for fame? Or how about somebody who just feels it's too "yucky" to even think about?

It has also been suggested that this is just an extension of Canadians' extreme sense of entitlement - after all, we get "free" health care, so it's not that big of a stretch to assume we should get organs if and when we need them.

But just wait a minute - don't we all have some measure of moral responsibility here? This is a pretty big dilemma, for sure. But can't we think it through ourselves? Do we need to abdicate our duty, and let the government decide for us?

All this being said, it's downright difficult to think about or speak about.

We have to get the discussion going, but mandating it is just not the route to go. Personal morals shouldn't be dictated by governments; we're not told we have to donate blood unless we opt out. We shouldn't be told we have to donate organs either.

Human beings have one natural advantage over the rest of creation - free will. Organ donations should absolutely increase, but not because the government says so.

They should increase because we are educated about the need and feel moved by it. They should increase because we can think and talk about our mortality, and decide on our own, without any government coaxing, that donating our organs could make a life-saving difference to another human being.

Allowing the government to invoke "presumed consent" is like letting them think for us, and make moral decisions for us.

Surely we don't need to give them this kind of authority.

Donate your organs, by all means, and tell everyone that you are going to do it.

Make a big deal out of it if that feels right, and encourage everyone you know to do the same - but don't just leave it up to the government - after all, it's your body.

Catherine Colton holds a B.A. in psychology, a certification in alternative dispute resolution and is currently completing a master's degree in humanities. She is a writer, rights adviser, counsellor and mediator.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

About Organ Allocation
in the United States

This excerpt from an article in the February issue of Transplant Living discusses the current protocol for organ allocation in the United States.

Matching Organs
Under contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Services & Resources Administration (HRSA), the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) maintains a centralized computer network, UNetSM, which links all organ procurement organizations (OPOs) and transplant centers. This computer network is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with organ placement specialists in the UNOS Organ Center always available to answer questions.

Within UNet, every organ sharing institution is electronically linked in a secure, real-time environment over the Internet so that donated organs can be placed as quickly as possible. While UNet utilizes the Internet for common access to UNOS members, it employs secure password access to protect confidential medical data.

Matching Donor Organs With Transplant Candidates

When a deceased organ donor is identified, a transplant coordinator from an organ procurement organization accesses the UNet system. Each transplant candidate in the "pool" is matched by the system against the donor characteristics. The system then generates a ranked list of patients, called a "match run," for each organ that is procured from that donor in ranked order according to organ allocation policies. Factors affecting ranking may include tissue match, blood type, length of time on the waiting list, immune status and the distance between the potential recipient and the donor. For heart, liver and intestines, the potential recipient's degree of medical urgency is also considered. Therefore, the UNet system generates a differently ranked list of patients for each donor organ matched.

The organ is offered to the transplant team of the first person on the list. Often, the top transplant candidate will not get the organ for one of several reasons. When a patient is selected, he or she must be available, healthy enough to undergo major surgery and willing to be transplanted immediately. Also, a laboratory test to measure compatibility between the donor and potential recipient may be necessary. If the organ is refused for any reason, the transplant hospital of the next patient on the list is contacted. The process continues until a match is made. Once a patient is selected and contacted and all testing is complete, surgery is scheduled and the transplant takes the complete article at Transplant Living.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

North American first:
Successful bridge to lung transplant with external, artificial lung for patient at Toronto General Hospital

“…This artificial lung – the Novalung - provides the hope that we can ‘bridge’ or keep a patient alive until a life-saving lung transplant is possible.”

(Toronto, February 14, 2007) – In a North American first, the lung transplant team at Toronto General Hospital (TGH), University Health Network used the Novalung, an external, artificial lung to keep a patient alive, until a set of donor organs became available for transplantation. The artificial lung functions like normal lungs, while avoiding or reducing lung injuries linked to the use of a breathing machine or ventilator.

The procedure was performed because there were no other options for the patient, and the team raced again time to save the patient’s life. Subsequent procedures will be part of a clinical trial at TGH testing the artificial lung as a bridge-to-transplant for end-stage lung disease patients who are waiting for a lung transplant. The device has been used in the Balad Theatre Hospital in Iraq on soldiers who have been critically wounded and needed life-saving measures.

The three-hour procedure at TGH was performed on December 2, 2006 by a 20-member team headed by Dr. Shaf Keshavjee, Director of the Lung Transplant Program at Toronto General Hospital, Director of the Latner Thoracic Surgery Research Laboratories, and Professor and Chair, Division of Thoracic Surgery, at the University of Toronto. The patient was on the artificial lung for one day until a pair of lungs and a heart became available for her on December 3, 2006. She remained on the artificial lung for one more day after the operation, allowing her newly transplanted lungs to recover from the procedure. Other key members of the team included: Drs. Tom Waddell, Marc De Perrot, Andrew Pierre, Stefan Fischer, Terry Yau, Stuart Reynolds, and cardiac perfusion manager Stephen Harwood, along with a team of OR and intensive care nurses, anesthesiologists, and other health-care professionals.

“Without the artificial lung, our young patient would not be alive today to be a beloved daughter, wife and mother for her three children,” said Dr. Keshavjee. “This young woman came to TGH and was found to be so ill that she was admitted to our intensive care unit on the same day. She needed to have a lung transplant urgently and the wait for donor lungs can be between three to five months,” he said. The TGH lung transplant program performs between 80 to 90 transplants a year, making it one of the largest transplant centres in the world.

Yen Tran, 21, is the mother of 4-year old fraternal twins and a 14-month-year-old son. She had rarely been sick in her life, had played soccer in high school, but began to have difficulty breathing after she had her third child. At first, she thought she was “just out of shape,” but grew alarmed when she eventually could not walk up and down the stairs in her home, and her lips and nails turned a dark blue.

Yen was admitted to TGH with a condition known as primary or unexplained pulmonary hypertension, a rare lung disorder in which the blood pressure in the pulmonary artery rises far above normal levels putting a strain on the heart. Yen began to realize how ill she was and wondered if she would survive.

“I hoped that I could get a pair of lungs, but I was not sure if I could wait that long,” she said, adding that after the transplant, she feels she was “brought back to life and given a second chance. I’m so grateful that I was able to benefit from the artificial lung and a generous donor for real ones. I’m so glad to be alive, and I’m so glad that I can go home to my children.”

One of the most terrifying fears which patients waiting for a lung transplant face daily is that they may die before they are able to get a set of donor lungs, explains Dr. Keshavjee, adding that about 20% of patients on the waiting list die before getting a transplant. “Until now, there have been few options for these desperately ill patients, and this device provides hope that we can ‘bridge’ or keep a patient alive long enough to receive a life-saving lung transplant.”

The Novalung or Interventional Lung Assist Device is about the size of a CD case and essentially does the work of the lungs. The blood leaving the device has the same amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide that exits the normal lung because the patient’s blood passes through a type of special filtering membrane in the device. A unique feature of this device is that it does not require a pump to run it, thereby reducing damage to blood cells. It is attached to a patient via tubes through the femoral (thigh) blood vessels and is powered by the patient’s own heartbeat.

The German company NovaLung GmbH is funding the clinical trial.

Toronto General Hospital is a partner in the University Health Network, along with the Toronto Western Hospital and the Princess Margaret Hospital. These teaching hospitals are affiliated with the University of Toronto. Toronto General Hospital is a national and international source for research, education and patient care, and is recognized internationally for its innovations in transplantation, surgical innovation, infectious diseases, diabetes and genomic medicine. The lung transplant program is renowned worldwide for its innovation and comprehensiveness in treating patients with severe and complex lung diseases. A pioneer in research on how best to preserve fragile lungs, the program is currently developing new molecular diagnostic and treatment strategies to repair and improve the quality of donor lungs, which could increase the number of transplants performed and survival after transplant.

Monday, February 12, 2007

A North American first in lung transplant will be announced on Wednesday, February 14, 2007 at Toronto General Hospital, University Health Network

On Wednesday, February 14, 2007 at Toronto General Hospital, a North American first in lung transplant is being introduced to the media . A young mother, whose life was saved by an innovative device, and a subsequent lung and heart transplant, will speak and answer any media questions about her remarkable recovery. Medical experts will also be available to speak about procedure.

This special event will take place during the regular lung transplant support group meeting from 11AM to 12PM.

Location: Toronto General Hospital, Astellas Pharma Conference Room (previously named: “Fujisawa Conference Room”), NCSB 11C- Room 1135 (11th Floor - please use west elevators). This is an open meeting and all are welcome

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Curling and/or Luncheon for Organ Donation Awareness Saturday, April 7

This annual bonspiel and luncheon has become a "must attend" event over the years.

Date: Saturday, April 7, 2007

Time: Curling starts at 10:00 AM (9:00 A.M - 9:45 A.M. intro & practice)

Place: Brantford Golf & Country Club, Brantford, ,Ontario

Lunch: The 2 hour lunch social event begins at noon and curling resumes at 2:00 P.M. with the awards presentations at 4:00 P.M. NON-CURLERS ARE WELCOME! If you are not a curler it is still a wonderful event to meet and socialize with others in the transplant community. I attended for lunch only last year and had a terrific time.

Open to all interested in promoting organ and tissue donation awareness. Bring your spouse, friends, family members. Put a team together!! No experience is necessary!! If not part of a team you can enter individually and will be placed on a team according to your ability (see registration form).

A team consists of 4 players. The Lead, the Second, the Third or the Vice-Skip and the Skip. Every curler plays 2 stones per end. There are two six-end games.

Wear warm, comfortable clothing, rubber soled shoes and gloves.
Brooms are supplied and one of your shoes will be taped for sliding.

  • Brantford Golf & Country Club, Brantford, Ontario.
    Directions:Take Hwy 403 to Paris Rd South to Hardy Rd. Go right on Hardy and turn left on Ava Rd.

  • Cost: Curling & Lunch - $30.00 Lunch Only - $20.00

  • Registration Deadline: March 14th

  • Sponsored by Clarica and the Lung Association

  • Contact Rosemary Ebert at Clarica (phone 519-752-3751 x244)
Please note that the deadline for registration is March 14th. For a registration form click here.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Organ and Tissue Donation Information Sessions

If you would like more information about organ and tissue donation or how to become a volunteer for Trillium Gift of Life Network these information sessions are for you.

We all want to increase the rate of organ donation in Ontario and these sessions are part of the recent initiatives by Trillium Gift of Life Network to increase awareness.

And according to the number of transplants this year to date, Trillium’s programs are starting to show success. See the statistics.

The first training and information sessions will be taking place at Toronto General Hospital and as noted below, further sessions will be held in Thunder Bay, Coldwater (north of Toronto), Ottawa, Kitchener, Windsor and London. More communities will be added this summer.

    To register for these sessions or for more information please contact Cailey Crawford at e-mail or phone 416-619-2305 or 1-800-263-2833.

    • TORONTO, Tuesday, February 13, 7:00PM to 9:00PM

    • TORONTO, Saturday, February 17, 11:00AM to 1:00PM

    • Toronto General Hospital, Astellas Pharma Conference Room ( previously named Fujisawa Conference Room), NCSB 11C- Room 1135 (11th Floor)

    • (These are duplicate sessions for the convenience of attendees)

    • THUNDER BAY, Tuesday, February 20, 7:00PM to 9:00PM

      Central Evangelical Free Church - 1250 Balmoral Street in Thunder Bay.

    • COLDWATER (NORTH OF TORONTO), Monday, March 5, 10:00AM to 12:00PM

      Coldwater United Church, 16 Harriet Street, Coldwater
      NB: this session is slightly different from the other sessions as it is part of a general presentation to a Church group and will focus less on volunteering with Trillium Gift of Life Network. If you are interested in learning more about organ and tissue donation, please come along and I can chat with folks about volunteering directly after the session is over.

    • OTTAWA, Thursday, March 8, 7:00PM to 9:00PM

      Algonquin College, 1385 Woodroffe Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario, Room TBC

    • KITCHENER-WATERLOO AREA, Wednesday, March 21, 7:00PM to 9:00PM
      registration deadline is March 17th. Please reply to Cailey Crawford.

      Conestoga College, Doon Campus, 299 Doon Valley Drive, Kitchener, Ontario.
      Main Building, E-Wing, room 2E31 (park in lot 13)
      NOTE: The Doon Campus is just off highway 401 at the Homer Watson Blvd. exit. It's very convenient to many communities in South-Western Ontario, such as Guelph, Cambridge, Woodstock, Stratford, Kitchener, Waterloo and surrounding areas.

      NOTE: Letter size posters are available to help spread the word about the Kitchener meeting. If you would like to help inform the public about this event please email Cailey Crawford for the poster.

    • WINDSOR, Thursday, March 22, 7:00PM to 9:00PM

      CAW 200/444 Local Office, 1855 Turner Road, Windsor, Ontario

    • LONDON, Saturday, March 24, 11:00AM to 1:00PM

      London Public Library, Stevenson and Hunt, Room A

    To register for these sessions or for more information please contact Cailey Crawford by at e-mail or phone 416-619-2305 or 1-800-263-2833

If you would like to become a volunteer in your area, or to organize a training and information session in your community, Cailey Crawford will be very pleased to hear from you.

“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”

Click Here to Obtain a Donor Card

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Minister Says Donations Are On The Rise But More Still To Be Done

TORONTO, February 7, 2007 – The lives of more than 880 people were saved as organ and tissue donations hit record levels in 2006, Health and Long-Term Care Minister George Smitherman announced today.

“Organ and tissue donations save lives,” said Smitherman. “By making an informed decision and letting family and loved ones know, everyone has the opportunity to give the gift of life for the 1,700 people on the organ donation waiting list.”

In 2006, 883 lives were saved as a result of living and deceased donation – 112 more than in 2005. The organ and tissue donors included:

  • 274 living donations – an increase from 247 in 2005

  • 172 deceased donors – up from 148 in 2005

  • 843 tissue donors – an increase from 436 in 2005
“These results are great news,” said Frank Markel, President and CEO of Trillium Gift of Life Network, a government agency responsible for planning, promoting, coordinating and supporting organ and tissue donation across Ontario. “But we know we can do better and that we need to keep working. Every three days someone on the organ donation waiting list dies. I want to remind Ontarians to sign their donor cards and have the conversation with their families about organ and tissue donation. It’s a conversation that can make a difference. As you can see today, it’s a decision that can save a life.”

Currently in Ontario, there are 1,742 people on the transplant waiting list. This includes 1,074 men, 623 women and 45 children.

“Our dedicated transplant team is making a difference in the lives of many by pioneering innovative approaches to organ transplantation and encouraging people to give the gift of life,” said Dr. Robert Bell, CEO of the University Health Network.

“I'm so proud and grateful to be a double lung recipient,” said 14-year-old Brandon Gibson. “I'm living proof that organ donation saves lives. I owe all my thanks to a wonderful family out there who in their darkest moment made a conscious decision to save a life. Thank you for taking away my oxygen tank, and for helping me to play hockey again. I love playing with my sisters and my friends. I wouldn't be here if someone hadn't had the conversation about their organ donation wishes. Sign your donor card and speak to your family today about what you would want. Someone did and saved my life. You can too.”

Everyone is a potential organ and tissue donor. The oldest Canadian organ donor to date was over 90 years of age while the oldest tissue donor was 102. Ultimately the ability to become an organ and tissue donor depends on several factors including the health of the organs and tissue.

“The McGuinty government is proud of the work by health professionals, donors and their families who make a difference for so many people,” said Smitherman. “We want to promote greater awareness about everyone’s potential to become a donor. That’s why we created a citizen’s panel to gather views from Ontarians on how to increase organ donation in this province. We look forward to hearing from this panel.”

In November 2006, the minister created the Citizen’s Panel for Increasing Organ Donation. The panel is currently traveling across the province hearing from Ontarians about organ donation. The panel will report to the minister in March.

Today’s initiative is part of the McGuinty government’s plan for innovation in public health care, building a system that delivers on three priorities - keeping Ontarians healthy, reducing wait times and providing better access to doctors and nurses.

April 22-29, 2007 is National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week in Canada

Now is the time to start planning activities in your community.

The history of National Organ Donor and Tissue Donor Week

An Act respecting a National Organ Donor Week in Canada
Chapter 4, 45-46 E II, 1996-97 Bill C-202 (35th Parliament)
The short title is the National Organ Donor Week Act. To ensure that, in each and every year, the last full week of April is known as National Organ Donor Week

The month of April is National Donate Life Month in the U.S.