Wednesday, January 9, 2008

New anti-gay organ donation rules should be rethought, says head of Canada's largest transplant program

Health Canada's new rules banning all gay men - regardless of health status, behaviour or other personal circumstances - from donating organs continue to face a backlash across the country.

The inherent flaws of the policy, which depend on family disclosure of a gay man's sexual orientation after his death, specifically whether or not he had been sexually active in the previous five years, continue to confound critics. If a man had sex with another man within the previous five years, his organs can't be donated to a needy recipient. Instead, perfectly good organs will go to waste simply because they belonged to a gay man.

Will Health Canada be issuing special pink organ donor cards to make identifying gay men easier after death?

Chatter from some bloggers has been very negative.

Now the head of the country's largest organ transplant organization says the new policy should be rethought.

Dr. Gary Levy, director of the multi-organ transplant program for the University Health Network in Toronto, criticized the new rules for zeroing in on gay men as a specific health problem.

"In the past, the gay community was considered a high-risk community because of perception of high-risk behaviour," he said yesterday. "We now know it's not a homogeneous community. The fact is, if someone has 62 partners, whether it's heterosexual or homosexual, there still is a risk.

"That community was singled out. I think that's unfortunate."

At first, officials at Health Canada refused to comment publicly on the new regulations. Now a major loophole in the new policy has come to light. The loophole lets transplant programs accept organs even from high-risk donors under exceptional conditions, such as non-availability of an organ that has met all safety criteria.

The recipient would have to agree and the organ could not test positive for disease. But the new rules mean the transplant program must keep records of why the exception was made, including the "justification" behind it.

The paperwork could discourage some programs from making perfectly healthy organs available.

Health Canada apparently issued a statement yesterday saying it had consulted widely on the new standards, and "during these consultations, no group or association expressed concerns" about the wording of the rules.

Clearly they failed to consult many in the LGBT community, one of the groups greatly and unjustly impacted by the new policy.


Anonymous said...

If by widely, they also mean excluding doctors who practise transplants, also patients and families of patients awaiting new organs.
That there is a wide section of people they obviously didn't consult.
They must be talking about all those experts in the Allia.... Conservative Party.

Rashid said...

remember those experts who made food cans with lead in them? hrmmm...

how come you don't allow anonymous comments? It is rather annoying :P

Matt Guerin said...

Rashid, because I got sick and tired of anonymous cowards leaving their hate-filled messages and running for cover. If you won't put your name next to your comments, I'm not interested in them...

tinae said...

I am writing a paper for my nursing class and chose this topic, do you know if health canada has commented on it since they passed the ban? I tried looking on their website...
There is definitely a lot of negative feedback since they passed this law, and I Bet they are not only losing out on gay people's donations, but also those straight people who love and support their gay friends and family members!
I've already heard from several people that they will not be wasting their time giving blood anymore, and won't consider becoming an organ donor because of this contraversial issue.

Matt Guerin said...

Thanks, tinae. I don't think that Health Canada made any kind of statement clarifying the new rules. In fact, it was the Trillium Gift of Life Network that was forced to clarify publicly that this policy was simply formalizing a long-existing practise for high risk donors. So in effect this policy wasn't "new." When it comes to providing leadership that helps the gay community or clarifies a situation in a way that favours the LGBT community, the Harper government has always been shamefully silent.

Ragemanchoo said...

What was that anti-gay donation list website? The site that has all the names of people who gave to prop 8, etc. It was something like or some funny thing like that