Give the gift of life

  • June 19, 2009
{mosimage}There are currently 1,662 people in Ontario on waiting lists for organ transplants. At year’s end, in rough numbers, just 450 will have received a new organ, 1,150 will still be suffering and 62 will have died waiting for a donor.

The numbers are startling but, sadly, are nothing new. There has always been a huge gap between  demand and supply when it comes to human organs.

Elsewhere in this issue we told the story of Deacon Michael Hayes and how he consented to become a live liver donor to save the life of a total stranger, Sr. Bridget Nazareth. When he entered the transplant process he did so in the purest sense of Christian charity, motivated solely by love of neighbour with no expectation of recognition or reward. But after saving one life he was persuaded to step forward and tell his story to help save many more.

“Some people told me it was a heroic thing to do,” he said. “It was not heroic. I have been preaching that we are called to help one another and, for me, this was a simple way of practising what I’ve been preaching.”

The shortage of organ donors is not a new story. But as Hayes reminds us, it is a story in need of constant re-telling.

Every three days in Ontario someone on the transplant waiting list dies a preventable death. Every three days a family must plan a funeral instead of a homecoming.

Earlier this year, Archbishop Thomas Collins addressed the issue at a multi-faith prayer breakfast organized to bring awareness to organ donation. The archbishop reminded us that organ donation to extend life is supported by the church and, in fact, exemplifies our call to stewardship, our obligation to share our God-given blessings with each other.

Becoming a live donor is the most heroic way to heed that call. But there are many justifiable reasons why people would be unwilling or unable to submit to surgery. There are far fewer reasons, however, to fail to sign a donor card and register donor consent with the government through the web sites of either the Trillium Gift of Life  ( or the Ministry of Health (

Signing a donor card and carrying it in your wallet is a good first step, but it is insufficient by itself. It is also important to discuss your wishes with family and then, without fail, register your consent at one of the above-listed government web sites to eliminate any ambiguity about your intentions upon death.

People generously donate millions of dollars each year to support medical research seeking cures for cancer, diabetes, heart disease and scores of other debilitating and fatal illnesses. People do care. But  most of us can be no more than an arms-length supporter of medical research.

Organ donation is different. There, when it comes to saving lives, we can all join the frontline.

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