“Deadly” Surgical Wait Times Continue to Take Canadian Lives

A vibrant teen from Hamilton, Ontario, who battled leukemia – not once, but twice –  died last month while waiting for a life-saving bone marrow transplant. This, after a donor had been matched months before. Laura Hiller was determined to bring attention to the public about how much of a problem wait times for transplants are across Canada.

She was told that there were many patients ahead of her “in line” and not enough resources to handle the demand. Hamilton’s Juravinski Hospital didn’t have enough beds to perform her procedure. The hospital told Laura that they could only afford to do five transplants per month.

Donor registries are growing, as are technological advances, allowing more transplants between people with less of a match. Only a third of those who are eligible to donate an organ actually become a donor. There were 2,124 organ transplants in Canada in 2012, yet 256 people died while waiting for a donor. More than 4,600 Canadians are on waiting lists for kidney, liver, or other organ transplant. Canadian patients are dying on these transplant waiting lists, and the longer they wait, the more their condition deteriorates.

There is no age limit to become a donor, as long as the organs are healthy. Quebec had the highest rate of donors from eligible deceased patients at 21%, with 34% of those older than 60 years of age. Each deceased donor can provide an average of three organs to those waiting.

Beginning in 2006, transplant organs may now come from patients who are declared braindead and are on life-support (DCD). Before that, only those who died in the hospital were eligible donors. More than 1,000 transplants have occurred that would not have with the DCD donation. Donations are now on the increase, but still not enough to meet demand.

A transplant can improve a person’s quality of life, increase their lifespan, and reduce future costs to the healthcare system. No willing donor should go without having their final wishes met. “No Canadian should die on a transplant waiting list because an inadequate system has failed to identify willing donors,” says CEO of Trillium Gift of Life Network in Ontario.


Rosenblatt, Kalhan. “Friends of girl, 18, with leukemia sign her casket with loving messages in a final goodbye after she died waiting for a hospital bed during a shortage in Canada.” News. Daily Mail, 6 Feb 2016. Web. 11 Feb 2016.

Ubelacker, Sheryl. “Many Canadian die awaiting transplants while possible donors lost — report.” Arts & Life. The Chronicle Herald, 19 Dec 2014. Web. 11 Feb 2016.

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