UPDATE: Alberta’s organ donation legislation comes into force

EDMONTON – Alberta’s Human Tissue and Organ Donation Amendment Act will see the creation of a provincial organ and tissue registry as well as a new agency to manage donation efforts.

The government passed Bill 207 late Tuesday night, and it received Royal Assent and came into force on Thursday.

The Act establishes a single agency to co-ordinate organ and tissue donations in Alberta, and creates a consent-to-donate registry. Albertans who want to donate their organs and/or tissue can make those wishes official either online or at a registry when they go to renew their driver’s licence or other identification.  Upon written consent, the registry agent transmits that information to the Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Agency for inclusion in the online registry. The person will receive a sticker to place on their driver’s licence or other identification to indicate they are a donor.

Alberta Health says the new agency is to be up by 2015 and fully integrated into the government’s computer system within three to five years.

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Bill 207 was originally introduced in the spring session as a Private Member’s Bill by Calgary-Foothills MLA Len Webber. The government then adopted the Bill as a Government Bill and it passed second reading with unanimous consent in the Legislature.

“Organ and tissue donation saves lives and we need to make sure Albertans know how important it is,” said Webber. “An online registry will make it easy for Albertans to provide their consent to donate, ensuring all Albertans who wish to donate make it known.”

(Read the Bill in its entirety below).

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The health minister will establish an online registry, and the province will automatically invite Albertans to join the registry when they receive or renew their driver’s licence.

New public awareness campaigns are also in the works, along with the establishment of the Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Agency.

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“We could not be more delighted” said Nancy MacDonald, a member of the Alberta Donates LIFE Coalition’s Executive. “We are so pleased that the Government of Alberta listened to our concerns that Alberta had fallen behind the rest of the country on organ donation rates and that significant action was needed. The sad fact is that many Albertans on organ donation wait lists die before a donor is found.”

Until now, Alberta did not have a provincial organ and tissue registry.

Currently, the province has the lowest rates of organ and tissue donation in the country.

“Alberta has fallen from roughly 18 or 19 per million population to less than ten per population,” explained Lori West, director of the Canadian National Transplant Research Program (CNTRP), “whereas many of the other provinces in the country have increased their organ donation rates.”

“The reasons for this are not entirely clear, but we believe that they may have to do with the organizational aspects of the donation system in Alberta,” West said prior to Bill 207 being passed.

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West believes the creation of a provincial registry is one step that would help boost donation rates across the province.  She also says educational campaigns to raise awareness among the public as well as healthcare workers, and the online organ and tissue registry will help.

“We think that this could have a major impact on bringing Alberta back up to where it should be in terms of organ and tissue donation.”

“This is the beginning of a new chapter in the province of Alberta – the saving of more lives through organ donation and improving the quality of life through tissue donation,” said Dr. Greg Powell, founder of STARS Air Ambulance, in a news release.  “This is such an important step and we cannot falter in the road ahead.”

For more information on organ and tissue donation and to find out how to register as a donor, click here.

Watch: Dr. Lori West with the Alberta Donates Life Coalition speaks about Bill 207

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Alberta’s Bill 207: The Human Tissue and Organ Donation Amendment Act

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