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November 06, 2006

Ontario considers default organ donation

organ donation diagram

Many of the biggest advances in public health are the result of government legislation. For instance the 1906 creation of the Food and Drug Administration vastly reduced the flood of useless or actually harmful substances being passed off as medicines. And laws mandating vaccination of children before they could attend school has saved untold thousands of lives. (Don't believe me? Next time you meet a centigenarian, ask them about the childhood friends they lost to Typhus. Or diphtheria. Or yellow fever. Or polio.)

Now the Canadian provence of Ontario is considering legislation that would be another milestone in public health, one that would establish a "presumed consent" organ donation system. In other words, all adults in Ontario would be considered organ donors unless they specifically opt out of the program. This is the exact opposite of the current system in Canada and the U.S., where you have to specifically agree to be an organ donor. Because of that, a huge number of organs go unused after death, and a too many people die waiting for a donated organ that could save their life.

If this legislation passes it could be a real sea change event, leading to similar laws throughout Canada and even in the U.S.

There's a brief article about the legislation in the Bodyhack section of wired.com, and a longer article in the Canadian Press.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at November 6, 2006 12:20 PM