For the past year, there has been an increased push by some in the healthcare system, the media and political circles to convince Canadians to sign their organ donor cards. For others, such information campaigns are not enough, so Ontario MPP Peter Kormos (NDP) went so far as to draft a private member’s bill that, if put into effect, would presume consent for organ donation unless an individual explicitly stated otherwise. Three other bills were also drawn up, but there was little traction on the issue until April 19, when the select committee on Bill 67 heard presentations on Frank Klees’s (PC) bill, which would prevent Ontarians from receiving a driver’s licence or healthcare card unless they stated their organ donation intentions. Thus far, it is the only organ donation bill to be discussed by Ontario’s politicians.

Campaign Life Coalition recently sent two people to Queen’s Park to argue against Bill 67. CLC medical adviser Dr. John Shea and Ontario organizer Dan Di Rocco presented arguments based on medical ethics and personal sovereignty.

Shea raised medical and ethical problems that would be exacerbated by possible commercial pressures to gain access to organs and human tissue. He explained how the definition of “death” has been compromised in the past few decades in order to facilitate faster organ removal for successful transplants to waiting patients. He stated that death is often hastened in order to harvest organs.

Kidneys and liver tissue can be donated from live donors without killing the patient, but most other organs required for donations, such as the heart and lungs, are needed by patients until the moment they stop breathing. The problem is that once a patient has stopped breathing, organs like the heart are no longer useful for transplant to another human being.

Shea pointed out that there is no clear definition of death in either the bill or within the modern medical profession.

He also said that it is unclear what is meant by the bill’s terms “uses” of “organs or tissue” or who will decide how they would be used.

Pro-life groups such as Campaign Life Coalition are opposed to any procedure that artificially hastens the death of a patient.

Di Rocco addressed the issue from a more philosophical point of view. He told the committee that requiring individuals to make a decision about organ donation is statist and based on the assumption that the government has some claim to a person’s body. He also said it makes no sense to require people to make the decision at the moment they are merely acquiring a bureaucratic document. “It is not the prerogative of the government to coerce the decision in any way or to force people into making any decision on this issue,” Di Rocco said.

He warned that the “legislation is unnecessary, dangerous and open to abuse.”

In a written presentation given to the committee, CLC added: “By coupling the declaration re: organ and tissue donation to a driver’s licence application, the government would be placing unfair and odious conditions on a customary privilege or right to health care, perhaps endangering the security of person guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

Notably, four of five presentations made before the committee in the one hour that it sat on April 19 were opposed to the proposed legislation, presenting serious objections to the content and compulsory nature of the declaration. Other objections cited religious reasons. The one presentation in favour of Bill 67 was a personal plea for organ donation, during which the woman expressed her gratitude for receiving a heart transplant. No one forced that donor to make the donation.