Skip to main content

A organ and tissue donation co-ordinator with Trillium Gift of Life Network carries blood samples from a dying patient to match organ transplants with recipients at Sunnybrook Critical Care Unit.

The Globe and Mail

The gap between the number of potential organ donors and patients on waiting lists is growing in Canada and hundreds of people are dying each year as a result, a new report has found.

In 2010, 557 living and 465 deceased donors contributed 2,103 solid organ transplants, numbers that are virtually unchanged from 2006, according to the report published Monday by the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

Stagnant donation rates are a major concern because the demands for new organs is growing, particularly as a result of huge increases in the rates of end-stage renal disease.

Story continues below advertisement

"The number needing transplants continues to rise," said Greg Webster, director of primary health care information and clinical registries at CIHI. "The number of transplants being provided remains stable, so that means the gap is increasing."

The rate of living donors in Canada was 16.3 per million, down from 17 million in 2006, while the deceased donor rate was 13.6 per million in 2010, a decrease from 14 million in 2006.

Nearly 230 people died waiting for organs in 2010, while more than 4,400 were still on the waiting list by the end of that year, according to the report. The vast majority of those waiting were in need of a kidney.

The report found that nearly 40,000 Canadians were living with end-stage renal disease in 2010, more than triple the rate recorded in 1991. The increase is a serious problem and, if anything, will rise in the future. Diabetes is the predominant cause of end-stage renal disease and the number of Canadians diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes has risen sharply in recent years.

Being on a donation waiting list can take a heavy toll, with many patients bed-ridden and experiencing progressively worsening health. For individuals with renal failure, it meansdialysis, which can severely impact quality of life and increase the likelihood of death.

But the financial toll from Canada's organ donation supply gap is also massive.

CIHI calculated that the hemodialysis costs for one patient is $60,000 every year, while a kidney transplant comes with a one-time cost of $23,000, plus $6,000 a year for necessary medications after the fact. Over five years, the transplant is a quarter of a million dollars cheaper than dialysis, CIHI said, and it can substantially improve a patient's quality of life.

Story continues below advertisement

There are many possible solutions that could help mitigate the shortfall in organ donations, Mr. Webster said, including efforts to prevent the development of Type 2 diabetes, which is linked to excess weight and obesity.

But if more people signed up as organ donors, it would also help relieve the pressure. Mr. Webster noted that the number of living donors who contribute a kidney to a patient in need has been rising in recent years.

People who receive a kidney donation from a living donor tend to wait less, with the average length of time spent on dialysis at just under 1.5 years. Those receiving a kidney transplant from a deceased donor wait on dialysis for nearly four years, CIHI said.

At the end of 2010, 501 patients in Canada were waiting for a liver, 135 for a heart, 310 for a lung and 98 for a pancreas, while 3,362 were waiting for a kidney.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies