One in five willing organ donors in Ontario have their wishes vetoed by family — and doctors don’t argue
"Legislation in most provinces and territories outlines legal authority for organ procurement from someone who has died. Written consent, such as an organ donor card or an online registration form, is legally binding. Family members can’t revoke that consent in most Canadian jurisdictions (the law is less clear in the North West Territories) — their refusal is legally meaningless.
"Despite the legal authority to do so, every provincial donation organization in Canada has a policy that the wishes of families will be followed (except Manitoba, where the wording is vague). Alberta legislation clearly prohibits seeking family consent when donor consent was previously provided and yet an Alberta Health Services directive states “your next of kin will be asked by the donation team to sign a consent form.”
"With more than 4,000 Canadians waiting for a lifesaving transplant, the gap between the law and what actually happens is glaring.
“People who register want donation to be part of their legacy,” says Linda Wright, the former director of bioethics of the University Health Network in Toronto, where more organ transplants are performed than anywhere else in Canada.
“As a living person you want to know your wishes will be respected,” she says, but health-care providers “don’t want to further traumatize families” often shocked and devastated over the sudden loss of a loved one.
"To date, no physician in Canada has ever overridden the wishes of the family in favour of the legally binding consent of the potential donor."