Friday, 17 June 2011

Gays Can Donate Their Organs? News To Me!

                Earlier this week an announcement was made by the Ontario Minister of Health, Deb Matthews, that an online registry for Organ Donation was commencing. This can be viewed as good news for the future of organ and tissue donation here in Canada. Until recently if an individual wanted to donate their organs and tissue they had to sign up/mail in their registration. This prevented many from trying to sign up to donate their organs. The new system will allow people to simply deal with it online  - making it accessible to more people. This I welcome.
                However, I have some reservations about this new system that has been brought forth. Questions arise for me about people who do not have access to the net, don’t know how to use it, and of course about gay men who, in 2007, were removed from the organ donation list due to changes by Health Canada.  I, and many other gay males, remember this – with many of my friends, straight or gay alike, taking part in protests against this discriminative policy. Thus when this announcement was made I did express on my Facebook and my twitter account about how I would gladly donate my organs – if only I was allowed. However, based on my sexual orientation I am prevented from fully donating my useful organs to someone, after I die, who in turn will most likely also die. I also pointed out flaws with an online registry. Unfortunately I have very little faith in people signing up on their own, which means I wonder how much of an increase the online registry will create. Why not have simply implemented an ‘Opt-Out” Organ Donation Policy?

                Thanks to my dear friend, Janie Fisher, I learned a lot about this idea of opt-out organ donation. The idea expresses that all citizens are already considered organ donators – unless they are disqualified due to medial issues and/or have agreed to ‘opt-out.’ Many developed countries already practice this idea and it is something that Canada, and Ontario, should look into – especially since there is a massive discrepancy in the amount of organ donators compared to those needing organs. It is a sad situation when most of ours are imported from the U.S or bought on the black market – not to mention citizens going to other countries to get them.

                In fact my friend Janie Fisher  proposed a policy to the Ontario Young Liberals back in 2007 which past many of the checkpoints it had to for being suggested to the Liberal Party of Ontario. Although debate over the policy was vocal and contentious at the OYL Summer Fling in Thunder Bay of that year, it still passed. Thus the policy was to go forward to the Party and be considered. However, this policy dropped off the face of the earth – not because of Janie but because of internal aspects within the OYL and the impact of ‘youth politics’ in this province – in my personal opinion. The end result was the policy disappeared and was never introduced to the OLP policy convention in 2008/2009 like it was supposed to be – well not her policy anyways.

                Thus the option was there and was not acknowledged – so I called people on it and the aspect of gays being able to donate. This issue of gay organ donation was even discussed at the Liberal Party of Canada’s Biennial Convention in Vancouver, 2009 – where one member pointed out quite well that he “would rather have a gay heart then no heart” if he needed a transplant.

                The issue of gays donating organs, for me, also relates to the inability for a gay male to donate his blood.  I also find this very discriminative because my blood should be as valuable to saving a life as any other citizen who can. I am very vocal that ALL blood should be screened and allowed to be used if it is cleared of disease, virus, or irregularities – whether one has same sex relations or not. The same goes for organs and I expressed this. On Wednesday I got a rebuttle to my twitter status and my Facebook link via individuals working for Minister Matthews. It was expressed to me that no matter what ones sexual orientation is, they can donate their organs. However, upon looking into it further one can see a fine line about this. It is true a gay male can donate their organs, what was not mentioned is that they need to have not had sex with another male for 5 years, similar to the rule about a gay person donating blood.

                On top of this, health officials can quiz a gay person’s family members about the gay individual trying to donate their organs. Furthermore, the new policy makes it seem like Health officials can tell who is gay and who is not.  For me, this is all ever-so frustrating.

                Thus I must state that although I applaud the online-registry, it does not go far enough and nor does it end discriminative practices that prevent a section of our population who could help people live with their blood and organs… so again I ask the Health Minister to please push Ontario into the 21st century of organ and blood donation – by making sure all people are screened – thus allowing the maximum potential of donations to be made – whether or not that individual has had sex with a man in the last 5 years or not. If I am wrong then please show me how I am with fact. Please express with a press release that Health officials should not be turning away a gay individual who wants to help. And lastly, be bold and look into opt-out organ donation policy rather then opt-in: only someone who has witnessed the flaws in this by sharing a bedroom with someone needing a kidney, or having someone in their family needing a new heart, can give you an idea of what it is like to watch someone die or miss a chance to be saved because people are too lazy to sign up, click the url, or because people are prevented based on their sexual orientation – or perhaps, that is just me…

Please Find Attached Some Articles that Relate to this Entry: One of which is Former Ontario Health Minister condemning the changes to organ donation.

George Smitherman Article:

Another Example:

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