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Organ donation bill transitions Alberta to aims to increase donations in Alberta

Starting Tuesday deceased Albertans will be referred to have their organ donor potential assessed.
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Highwood MLA RJ Sigurdson with Toby Boulet on May 31, following the announcement of Bill 205 being given royal assent and becoming law. Boulet and his wife have become advocates for organ donation following the death of their son Logan in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash in 2018.

A private member's bill that transitions organ donation in Alberta to a mandatory organ referral system, designating all Albertans as potential organ donors will become law on Tuesday. 

The lieutenant governor gave royal assent to Bill 205, the Organ and Tissue (Mandatory Referral) Amendment Act, 2022, on May 31, which officially makes it law. 

Under the new law, health care professionals are required to report all imminent deaths to Alberta's organ procurement organization, according to a press release circulated by the United Conservative Party and authored by the Kidney Foundation of Canada.

“Every global leader in deceased donation has a mandatory referral system,” Flavia Robles, executive director for the Kidney Foundation, northern Alberta and territories branch, said via press release. “Only one to two per cent of all deaths in Canada have the potential to become organ or tissue donors.

"Donation is complex and because only a tiny proportion of individuals have the potential to become a donor, our system must ensure there are no missed donor opportunities – mandatory referral is a tool to close this because it supports the timely identification, referral and assessment of a potential donor." 

Patients and families are provided information from referral agencies and are then able to make a decision on whether or not to become a deceased donor. 

RJ Sigurdson MLA for the Highwood constituency south of Calgary created the bill. He said Bill 205 allows potential donors to make arrangements in a timely matter and minimize lost donor opportunities and added that mandatory referral has shown to largely impact donation rates in other provinces. 

"I am confident that it will be a lifesaver here in the province of Alberta," he said. 

According to the Kidney Foundation, the mandatory referral legislation "closes a significant gap in Alberta's deceased donation and transplantation system," which it said "lags behind other provinces." 

"We all know that organ donation is the ultimate gift of life," Sigurdson said outside the legislature Tuesday. "Over the past several years however, it became clear that Alberta's donation process needed to be changed to keep up with best practices and to increase the rates of donation." 

The MLA is the sponsor of the bill and first read it in the House on April 1. The bill has been in the works since 2019. 

Toby Boulet was present for the Edmonton announcement on Tuesday. Boulet and his wife Bernadine have been advocates for organ donation since the passing of their son Logan in 2018. Logan was a member of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team that was devastated by a bus crash on the way to a playoff game. Before his death, Logan made the choice to become an organ donor after being inspired by his mentor Ric Suggitt. 

Logan and Suggitt both saved six lives with their donations. 

April 7 is now recognized annually as Green Shirt Day, in support of organ donation advocacy. 

Boulet thanked Sigurdson for bringing Alberta's parties together on a non-partisan issue 

"Good things have happened because our teams have worked together," he said. 

A press release from the Kidney Foundation said 395 transplants were performed in the province in 2020. Unfortunately, 55 Albertans died while waiting for a transplant and 56 people were removed from the wait-list. 

**Editor's note: A previous version of this story stated that Bill 205 would transition Alberta to an "opt-out" donation system. That statement was incorrect and has since been amended. The Wheel deeply regrets the error.