Nova Scotia’s health minister announced on April 24 that the province will consider instituting presumed consent for organ donation. This means that it will be assumed that individuals would become potential organ donors unless they opt out.

Health Minister Leo Glavine will ask the deputy health minister to launch an online public consultation asking for input about a presumed consent or “reverse onus” law.  “It would make available additional organs each and every year,” Glavine told the Globe and Mail, insisting that it is a measure that “Nova Scotians have expressed a desire for us to investigate.”

According to a February report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, 15.5 Canadians per million provide organs when dead. Spain, which has a presumed consent law, has more than 30 donors per million. Ronnie Gavsie, president and chief executive of Trillium Gift of Life Network, which manages deceased organ donations in Ontario, however, told the Globe and Mail that such a law would not automatically lead to more donations.

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, told LifeSiteNews that presumed consent adds pressure to declare a patient dead so that the organs may be harvested. “Now the (medical) decision is, do we treat this person as an organ donor or help them get better?” he said. Also, because “some doctors have bought into the concept of quality of life,” they may act unethically in favouring what they believe is a better life over a worse life.

In 2006, the late NDP Ontario MPP Peter Kormos had introduced a bill attempting to establish presumed consent in the province. In 2007, the Citizen’s Panel on Increasing Organ Donation also submitted a report to the Ontario government in opposition to presumed consent. It found that Ontarians did not agree with the measure and that it would be “too passive a method to be a clear statement of an individual’s intent.”

Campaign Life Coalition opposed presumed consent partly because many vital organs could only be used for transplantation if they were removed from a donor with a beating heart. During the Ontario debate following the Kormos bill, CLC said in its August 2008 National News: “There are serious problems with voluntary donation of vital organs for transplant … having the Government presume that it has first claim to our body parts – unless we give written notice that we object to such an arrangement – is dangerous.”