A private member's bill from a local MLA is close to being passed.
Highwood MLA RJ Sigurdson's Bill 205, the Human Organ and Tissue Donation (Mandatory Referral) Act, has passed first and second reading about a year and a half after Sigurdson started work on it.
If passed, the bill would change a few aspects of Alberta's organ and tissue donation process with the goal of decreasing missed donation opportunities and increasing the province's rate of donation overall.
Sigurdson says one of the main components of the bill is to create a structured pathway for the process.
That includes starting the referral process earlier than it currently does.
"Most of us understand that many tissues and organs when the individual passes away, they're not viable for donation. This makes one critical change in which it goes from death to imminent death. It also says physicians in all cases are required at that time to pass all of the information over to organ donation organizations so that they have adequate time to look at whether that is a viable donor, to see if they're signed up to be a donor in the registry, and to work with their families."
One of the other key pieces of the bill is being able to keep track of missed opportunities.
"The second piece is expanding agency guidelines to ensure we've got adequate reporting to the ministry and department to minimize missed donor opportunities."
The bill would also emphasize information and education surrounding organ and tissue donation.
Since Albertans must opt-in to donate organs and tissue, Sigurdson wants to spread awareness on how to do so and start more conversations around it.
"It is, though understated in the bill, it is really an important piece. Through this process and engaging in this, it's provided a lot of awareness to me where I've approached my family to have this conversation, and I think that's really an important and critical piece to improving organ and tissue donation in the province, for families to have these conversations with their loved ones so that they're aware of what their intent is, and those individuals that do want to become owners ensure they go to the online registry to sign up and become a tissue and organ donor."
While working on the bill, Sigurdson has drawn inspiration from a few stories of organ donors who have made a difference in people's lives.
One of those people is Morghan Krieger, an Albertan who moved to Nova Scotia in 2018, and soon experienced an onset of seizures. Morghan's parents were told she didn't have long to live due to the lack of oxygen brought on by the seizures, and having talked about organ donation months prior, her family started the process to have her organs donated to those in need. Her mother Cindy recently reached out to Sigurdson to let him know that the person who received Morghan's heart is getting married.
For Sigurdson, stories like Morghan’s show how much of an impact these donations can make, and why there should be an effort to boost Alberta's low rate of deceased donation.
“It really drove me into this space to start looking at what could be done better in the province of Alberta…. Within our system, there is literally only 1.2 per cent of opportunities that happen within our health system. When you’re looking at a number that is that low, you definitely want to ensure you have a system that maximizes on the opportunities.”
Bill 205 will go before the Committee of the Whole before receiving third and final reading.