Organ donors wanted

The number of organ donors in the province is on the rise but more are needed.

The number of organ donors in the province is on the rise but more are needed.

By Matt Law
[media editor]

For many university students, their own mortality is the last thing on their minds.

Making the decision to become an organ donor is something few young people think about and even fewer know how to do.

Five years ago, BC Transplant established an online registration system in the hopes that it would appeal to a younger, tech-savvy generation and promote at-home discussion about the subject.

“I see the 20-25 year olds as being the ambassadors,” said Dr. Greg Grant, provincial executive director for BC Transplant.

Young people, said Grant, are often more understanding of the idea to become an organ donor and often act as a translator for parents whose first language is not English.

While the number of organ donors in B.C. has been on the rise, only around 18 per cent of the population has registered with BC Transplant.

In 2011, 285 people received organ transplants in B.C., while 432 were left on the waiting list – some waiting for over five years.

Often, young people receive organs from much older donors, which can lead to other health problems and shorter life expectancy for that organ.

Which is why, said Grant, it is important for young people to think about becoming donors.

“When you are 18-25 you haven’t had long enough to really abuse a lot of things,” said Grant.

Younger, healthier organs can offer a better chance at life for the recipient.

But the choice to become a donor isn’t something as easy as a click of a button. It is something that needs to be discussed with family members and loved ones. This discussion is something Grant hopes the web registration system will promote.

“When we’re faced with a family in the intensive care unit that’s wondering about what their 25-year-old would want, they know on paper that this is what they want,” he said.

Grant hopes the online system will also make the organ donation process more accessible to other cultures.

“Your culture influences, in some way, your ability to get a transplant,” he said.

People from all cultural groups should become organ donors because there are often problems with tissue compatibility.

“It depends on what your tissue type is. If you’re in the main line population, your tissue type may be compatible with a whole bunch of people. If you’re from a smaller cultural group, you may not be well represented in our donor group,” said Grant.

Over the next few months, the online registration system will be updated to offer a number of different languages

For more information on organ donation and the registration system, visit