Developing an organ and tissue
donor awareness campaign in your school, business and community.
Developing an organ and tissue donor awareness campaign in your school, business and community.
Increasing awareness is very important.
Any effort you make to increase awareness of organ and tissue donation will make a big difference.
People are dying needlessly and we’re burying the cure. Fewer than 14 out of every million Canadians are organ donors, a rate ranking in the bottom half of countries that perform organ transplants. More than three thousand Canadians are waiting for organ transplants. Hundreds die every year waiting for an organ donation that never comes. Only 38% of us actually sign an organ donor card, and fewer let their families know their wishes to be an organ donor — even though over 90% of the people who think about it are in favour of organ donation.
You can make a big difference.
This manual has been created to help you by the volunteers who launched Sandrine’s Gift of Life, a successful campaign in the national capital area which was organised with only two weeks’ preparation.
In what the Ottawa Citizen called “a remarkable event in the history of this community,” Sandrine’s Gift distributed 90,000 organ donor cards in a two-week blitz.
Inspired by the Craig family’s decision to donate their daughter’s organs after 11-year-old Sandrine died in a tragic school bus accident, friends of Sandrine’s mother, Diane (who lost her husband four years previously to cancer), organized an intensive organ donation awareness campaign. It was a huge success.
Friends and strangers volunteered for the campaign. Local media, corporations, businesses, service clubs and government departments pitched in. The campaign peaked in a region-wide shopping centre blitz on a Saturday, the day proclaimed “Sandrine’s Gift Day” by the Regional Government.
There are stories as compelling as Sandrine’s in every community. We urge you to use them as the focus of any efforts you make.
Big or Small, Your Efforts will Count!
Every action helps. Whether you only talk to your neighbours, pass out pamphlets to your co-workers or fellow students, or help organise a community-wide campaign, every action helps. You could save someone’s life.
Talk to your family. Someone’s Life Depends on it.
That’s the key message we suggest you use. Here’s why. Most people are shocked to learn that even though they have signed an organ donor card or expressed their wishes through a central registry, their family can override their wishes. And that happens all too often.
Statistics show that if you’ve signed your card and told your family about your wishes, in almost all cases, the family will say yes to organ donation. However, if you sign the card but don’t tell your family, in half the cases, the family does not respect their loved one’s wishes. It is understandable that they could say no if faced with a traumatic situation, if they are unsure of their loved one’s wishes. But, when they do, other lives are wasted and your efforts will help get across that message.
When Sandrine Craig died, six people’s lives, including three children, were either saved or greatly enhanced because of her donated organs. As her mother, Diane, says, “It makes no difference to us if we donated her organs or not. That won’t bring her back. But, it definitely makes a huge difference to the people who received her organs and tissue – and their families too.”
Encouraging families to talk about the issue should be your primary goal simply because it is so vital. But, it is so easy too. You’re not asking people for money. Or asking them to give up food, drink or cigarettes. But, if you don’t remind them to do it, they probably won’t even think about it.
That’s why your efforts are so important.
It is also important to note that provinces treat the organ donor card differently, so please work closely with your provincial or local organ donor groups. These cards are not legal entities, so it is doubly important that you express your wishes with your family.
An important point to note when dealing with seniors is that most of them think their organs aren’t good enough to donate. The oldest known organ donor in Ontario, for example, was over 90 and the oldest cornea donor was 102.
This is a Marketing Effort
Whatever your efforts are, you have stiff competition for people’s attention. Even though this is a good “cause”, it is important to remember that this is a marketing effort and should be conducted as such. If you’re going to develop a community-wide program, please make sure that you include professional communicators and marketers as part of your team.
Put a Human Face on this Issue
In every community, you’ll find one or more people who has either received or donated organs or tissue, or who is on a transplant waiting list. Those people are your most effective spokespersons, so use them. Your local hospital or various organ donor groups (ie Cystic Fibrosis, Kidney, Liver) can direct you to these people.
Use Existing Communications Networks
The impact of your efforts will multiply if you approach businesses and organizations which have their own communications networks. Service clubs, schools, churches, seniors groups, associations and businesses all reach many people easily. Get them enthused and ask that they spread the message through those networks. Your efforts will snowball.
Your efforts will make a difference any time of the year. However, you may wish to focus the bulk of your efforts during National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week, which is always the last week in April.
It is important to note, that even if you can move quickly, many organizations need time to plan, so you should contact your new “partners” as soon as possible.
If you’re going solo…
Your time is limited but you want to help. Here are a few suggestions:
· Get brochures and organ donor cards from any of the sources listed at the back of this manual.
· Distribute them to your neighbours, friends, co-workers, at your church.
· Ask the owner of any business you patronise to place them in the location.
· Ask your doctor and dentist if they could display them too.
· Ask your minister/priest or rabbi to give a sermon encouraging their congregation to talk to their family about this issue. Generic sermon notes can be found at the back of this manual. They can be adjusted to include stories of people in your own community.
If you want to organize a community-wide campaign…
The organisational chart in the appendix is a guide which will ensure than no one person is overburdened. If organised, your campaign will be comparatively easy to do.
STEP TWO – Link with the pros
It is vitally important that your committee work hand-in-hand with local organ donor groups. A list of provincial/territorial organizations is enclosed in this manual. They understand the nuances of your provincial laws regarding organ donation and they, of course, are an invaluable source of information.
STEP THREE- Set goals
Having a stated goal helps set priorities and provides a marketing hook. For example, your team may decide to focus on getting all the clergy in your community to give a sermon on the issue. Or you may decide to target the medical profession, asking doctors to hand out brochures and donor cards to all their patients. You may simply decide to hand out “x” number of cards through a variety of means. Or you may wish to have a shopping centre blitz on one specific day. Or, you could do all of the above and more.
STEP FOUR – Develop a plan of action
Assign one or two people, preferably those with organizational and communications expertise to develop your plan of action. Each committee chair should provide input related to their area of responsibility. The plan should include these sections:
· Goal (What do you want to accomplish?)
· Strategy (How you plan to achieve your goal?)
· Fundraising (You won’t need much, but will need some for out of pocket expenses)
· Target markets (seniors, youth, etc and how you plan to reach them)
· Special Events (Don’t spread yourself too thinly. One or two well organized events, properly promoted are better than several not done well.)
· Media Relations (How are you going to get the media on board? How do you best announce the campaign? How to get the media to run the public service announcements.)
· Communications Tools (What tools do you need, where do you get them, and, if you want to create your own, what is the deadline for production?)
STEP FIVE–Locate local organ donors, recipients & those on waiting lists.
As indicated earlier, contact hospitals and organ donor groups to identify spokespersons. The people who are the most compelling are those who have either donated a loved one’s organs or tissue, been on the receiving end, or is on a waiting list.
STEP SIX– Bring others on board
Touching base with organizations with their own communications networks will make your campaign grow.
· For example, if there is a senior’s organization in your community, get them on board, and then ask them to spread the word to all the seniors groups in town.
· Talk to the Board of Trade or Chamber of Commerce about getting their members involved. It could be as simple as having them send out a message to their members offering brochures and posters for distribution in their businesses.
· Go to the School Board, College or University and ask them to designate an organ and tissue donation day in all the schools. If you turn on the student associations, you’ll have an eager army working with you.
· Approach funeral directors and encourage them to talk about organ and tissue donation when pre-planning funerals with customers. (The Funeral Services Association of Canada is a keen partner of Sandrine’s Gift of Life and many funeral homes across the country have ordered brochures.)
· Financial planners are a natural partner with you because they work with their clients in planning for the future. Provide them with materials to make their job easier and encourage them to write a story in their client newsletter.
· Provide generic sermon notes to all the clergy in town and encourage them to give a sermon on the need for families to talk to each other about this issue. Make sure that brochures and organ and tissue donor cards are available when a sermon is given, making it easy for people to take action once they are convinced signing a card or registering is the right thing to do.
· Book in speakers at service clubs and ask members to distribute brochures to their own staff and customers.
· Talk to the managers of your local shopping centre(s) and establish a mall blitz, so that you can hand out brochures and donor cards on one specific day.
· Have volunteers asking businesses in the mall to keep that material at the cash for that one day. You’ll find that they will keep the brochures in their stores long past the mall blitz.
· Contact local medical organizations (nurses, doctors) to ask how best they could help. You might want to identify one or two who are very keen and they can approach either their association or their colleagues. Often, doctors meet regularly to update themselves on issues. Ask for a few minutes to speak to them about their role in saving even more lives than they already do. Suggest that the simplest thing they could do is display brochures in their offices…or better still…hand one to each patient themselves.
· Very importantly, get the media involved as partners. See the section on MEDIA later in this manual for more ideas.
· And, don’t forget lawyers. Especially those involved in estate planning. They could easily send out your literature to all their clients, or put the information in their own newsletters or on their web site.
TIP: It’s always best to find a champion in an organization because they’ll give you credibility as you approach a group.
STEP SEVEN– Announce your campaign
Make a big deal out of your campaign launch. But before you go public, you need to have a clear picture of your goal and what you want the public to do. For example, you might want people to:
1. Sign an organ donor card.
2. Talk to their families (and doctors) about their wishes.
3. Encourage three others to do the same.
Having a celebrity Honourary Campaign Chair will help draw the media to your event.
THE MEDIA: A VIP Partner
Your campaign will grow quickly if you get the media involved right off the start – and if you do it right. Think of them as more than simply people to which to send a news release – think of them as VIP partners.
It is vitally important to have someone on your team who understands how to deal with the media and has good contacts with them. Good media relations is a science and should be left to professionals if you want to get maximum exposure.
Your media relations planning should take into considerations two components:
The newsroom is always looking for human interest stories. By humanizing the organ and tissue donation story with real live local people, you are a big step ahead in getting publicity. Remember than over 80% of people get their news from television, so plan any media event with television in mind. Talking heads are only interesting for a few seconds on a broadcast.
A campaign kickoff news conference could include:
· The Mayor and every member of City Council (or other celebrities) signing their organ donor card at a ceremony.
· Having your kickoff in a hospital where a transplant has just taken place…or where someone is hospitalized while waiting for one.
· Holding your kickoff news conference in a shopping mall where the mall blitz will take place…and using a giant organ donor card as the backdrop.
· And, most importantly, people for whom this issue is a matter of life and death.
Every media room in the country has suffered from staff cutbacks and they are greatly overworked. Your job is to make theirs easier, which should result in more accurate reporting.
· Provide the media with facts and figures (see appendix) but just enough to interest them. Do not overwhelm them with information. Peak their interest…then show them where they can get more information easily by directing them to a web site or two.
· Never call close to deadline time because you won’t capture their interest. If your local tv station holds their newscast at 6 p.m, never call after 2:30 p.m. Radio stations should be called right after the newscaster has come off reading the news at the top of the hour. And, the best time to reach most newspapers is well before they put their edition “to bed”. That time will differ depending on when they publish.
· Remember that weekly newspapers have much longer lead times than daily newspapers.
The PROMOTION side of the news can also get you lots of coverage, but of a different sort.
Approach the promotion manager of the radio and television stations and the community relations person at the paper.
Let them know what you hope to accomplish. Ask for their advice on how best they could help. Hopefully, one will develop a PSA (public service announcement) which could be fed to the other local radio stations. Also develop a print PSA for the newspapers, magazines, and in-house publications of businesses and other organizations.
That PSA should be very simple. Don’t try to say too much otherwise your message will get lost.
A simple message: “Talk to your family about organ donation. Someone’s life depends on it.” is ample if accompanied by a close up photo of someone who is waiting for a transplant.
Ask your local newspaper if they can develop the print PSA for you. Or you could ask an advertising class at a local College to develop it.
A local advertising agency could also become a campaign partner. They would be glad to show off their talents by producing the print and electronic PSAs. And a web site development company could also develop a simple web site for you.
You don’t need many communications tools to develop your campaign. Feel free to use any of the material on our web site to inform your audiences. You will need:
1. A simple, two colour brochure
Make sure that it includes an organ donor card in the design. It should also include these facts.
a. your family can override your wishes;
b. they are never too old to donate;
c. myths and facts (get the information from our enclosed fact sheet), particularly the item about brain death. Many people are concerned that if they agree to organ donation for a loved one’s donation, “What if they are not really dead.” The fact sheets address the issue of brain death versus a coma…and that information is a must to include in any material because it is an unspoken fear of many.
d. include a “call to action”. That should be encouraging them to talk to their family TODAY.
e. Use a compelling photo of someone who has donated, or is waiting for a transplant.
2. A simple poster
This will be used in businesses to draw attention to the brochures. A simple, two colour, 8 ½” x 11” poster will do wonders. We suggest you use the photo of one person in your community with the words, “Talk to your family about organ donation today. Someone’s life depends on it.” Keep it very simple to make it more effective.
3. Optional materials
Print out the fact sheets from this document and have them available for people, or media who want more information.
Your local web site is an extra added touch. Since there are others that contain plenty of good information, we recommend that you not reinvent the wheel. Put up a local message, the fact sheets, then link them to other web sites, some of which are listed here.
A video is always compelling because of the combination of sound and moving pictures. We found that the video which a production company developed as a gift to our campaign moved more people than any other item. If you can’t get a company to volunteer their services, approach a local college or university to see if this can be taken on as a class project.
If you are going to localize your campaign by featuring local people, then you’ll need a bit of money to print materials and for odds and ends. In most cases you can get this donated.
Sandrine’s Gift of Life
1-800 531-6138 (inside Canada)
1. Suggested organizational chart
2. Fact Sheets
A. Organ and Tissue Transplant
B. Seniors and Organ Donation
C. Top 10 Myths and Facts
3. Generic Sermon Notes
4. Generic Speech Notes
5. List of contacts
6. Interesting web sites
Developing Your Team
Honourary Chair (if you have a
local celebrity who can add credibility)
(if you have a local celebrity who can add credibility)
Co-Chair #1 (Orchestrates the
campaign) Co-Chair #2 (Co-ordinates
(Orchestrates the campaign)
(Co-ordinates volunteer efforts)
Communications Tools Fundraising Liaison With Organ Donor Groups
Liaison With Organ Donor Groups
Youth Seniors Media
Ecumenical Groups Associations Governments
A. Web Sites
For more information on organ donation, check out these web sites:
Sandrine’s Gift of Life
Health Canada’s national site
Canadian Association of Transplantation
Canadian Transplant Association On-Line
Canadian Institute for Health Information
Alberta Foundation for Diabetes Research
London Health Sciences Centre Multi-Organ Transplant Program
James Redford Institute for Transplant Awareness (many U.S. links)
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Kidney Foundation of Canada
Canadian Liver Foundation
B. Organ Donor Organizations
The following organizations are actively involved in organ and tissue donor awareness. Please contact your local Chapter or Branch of:
Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
The Kidney Foundation of Canada
The Canadian Liver Foundation
Canadian National Institute for the Blind
Canadian Blood Services
Make sure to contact your provincial organ donation organization or their local chapter.
B.C. Transplant Society
Human Organ Procurement Exchange
Edmonton 780 407 1970
Saskatchewan Transplant Program
Manitoba Transplant Program
Organ Donation Ontario
Organ/Tissue Procurement Program
St. John , NB 506-643-6848
Multi Organ Transplant Program
Organ Procurement Exchange
St. John’s 709-737-6600
Facts Sheets Follow
· What organs can be donated?
Heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, bowel, pancreas, stomach
· What tissues can be donated?
Corneas, heart valves, bones, skin, tendons and ligaments
· Am I too old to be an organ or tissue donor?
No! General health is more important than age. There have been cases where a 90-year-old liver was donated, and a 102-year-old donated corneas.
· If I have a medical illness or condition can I still donate?
Medical illness does not always preclude someone from becoming a donor. Every potential donor is thoroughly assessed by a medical team to determine what organs can be used for transplant.
It is possible, for instance that a cancer patient could still donate corneas, as long as the cancer is not one of the eye, circulatory or lymphatic system. Or a hepatitis patient might be able to donate an organ to another hepatitis patient.
· Can everyone become an organ donor when they die?
No. Only patients who have been declared brain dead and are on life support in a hospital as a result of severe head trauma or a stroke can become organ donors. The supply of oxygen and bodily fluids must be constantly maintained to support the vitality of the organs.
But other patients, even those who die outside of hospital, can be a tissue donor. Corneas and other tissues such as skin, ligaments, heart valves or bone can all be donated within 24 hours.
· I don’t want my loved one to be an organ donor because I have heard stories that brain dead people can actually wake up.
It is impossible to recover from brain death. Brain death is not the same as a coma. Death can occur in two ways: 1) when the heart and lungs stop functioning, and 2) when the brain stops functioning. Brain death only occurs in 1% to 3% of all deaths. Death certificates are dated and signed when brain death is declared. Brain death occurs when a person has an irreversible, catastrophic brain injury which causes all brain activity to stop permanently. In such cases, heart and lung function can be maintained with the aid of artificial life support. Brain death is an accepted medical, ethical, and legal principle. Organ donation can only take place after brain death occurs. However, tissue, including cornea donation, can take place from someone whose heart has stopped.
· What are the criteria for brain death?
The criteria for declaring a patient brain dead are very strict and include no brain function and lack of eye and gag reflexes, lack of facial or tongue movement. The patient is completely unresponsive to external visual, auditory, and tactile stimuli and is incapable of communication in any manner. Other causes of unresponsiveness (hypothermia, drug intoxication, neuromuscular blockade or shock, for instance) have also been ruled out.
· I don’t want my loved one to feel any pain, or to be disfigured.
Patients who are brain dead don’t feel any pain because the brain doesn’t register any sensation. The heart and lungs of brain dead patients are functioning only because of machines, not because the brain is sending out signals to the body.
· What happens if our family agrees to donate the organs of our loved one?
The family has the opportunity to say their farewells. The organ procurement team evaluates the patient as a donor and blood samples are taken for the matching process. When recipients are located, organs/tissues are removed by a team of surgeons and a specialist trained in organ recovery. This surgery is performed in an operating room with the same respect and dignity as if the patient were alive. After organs have been removed incisions are carefully sewn up so that there is no sign that organ donation has taken place.
The organ donation process takes approximately 24 hours. The body is then prepared for the funeral home and released back to the family. Donation of organs/tissues should not cause a delay of funeral arrangements.
· What happens if we refuse consent for donation?
Respiratory support equipment is removed and your loved one's heart stops beating. The body is sent to the funeral home of your choice. If an autopsy is to be performed, it is done before the body is sent to the funeral home
· Would we be told what organs and tissues were used and to whom they were given?
Our local procurement agency sends out a letter to the donor family telling what organs were used, the age and perhaps a little about the person receiving them. Often recipients will write letters of thanks to the donor families. Names are kept confidential and are not given to the donor or recipient families.
Fact Sheet: Seniors and Organ Donation in Canada
“Talk to your family about organ donation. Someone’s life depends on it.”
· Many senior citizens think they’re too old to donate organs and tissue when in reality, the oldest organ donor was 90 years old and the oldest tissue donor was an incredible 102 years old!
· 12% of organ donors were 60 years of age or older in 1998, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (www.cihi.ca).
· It is not a matter of age as much as general health. Even those with illnesses may donate something to help save or improve lives. For example, cancer patients could still donate corneas, depending on the type of cancer.
· Seniors may mistakenly believe that their religion will not permit organ donation. In fact, all but the Shinto religion encourage organ donation as an act of love and charity.
· The need among seniors for organ transplants is growing with our aging population. The amount of patients on dialysis from kidney failure has doubled since 1981. Forty-eight percent of patients with the most severe form of kidney failure are over 65. At the same time, the number of donated organs is decreasing.
· Canada’s organ donor rate is one of the lowest in the industrialized world at less than 14 donors per million, a decrease of 5% in 1998, the latest year for which statistics are available. Spain’s is more than 30 per million. U.S. is 21+.
· Your family can overrule your decision to be a donor, even if even if you have signed your organ donor card. Half the families who are approached refuse consent for donation (most are not aware of the donor’s wishes) wasting lives in the process.
· If every dialysis patient got a kidney transplant the health care system would enjoy a net savings of $240 million dollars every year.
· More than 3,500 people are now on the transplant waiting list.
· More than 150 on the waiting list die every year before an organ becomes available.
Nearly 90% of Canadians say they are in favour of organ donation, but only 38% sign an organ donor card.
Top 10 Myths and Facts
“Talk to your family about organ donation. Someone’s life depends on it.”
Myth no. 1: I made my decision. I signed my card so it’s all set.
Fact: Your family can overrule your decision to be a donor, even if you have signed your organ donor card. Half of the families who are approached refuse consent for donation (most are not aware of the donor’s wishes), wasting the precious gift of life in the process.
Myth no. 2: I must be too old to donate organs and tissues.
Fact: You’re never too old. The oldest organ donor in Canada was 90 years old and the oldest tissue donor was an incredible 102 years old! The liver from a 70-year-old helped a 10-year-old boy feel well enough to play baseball again.
Among seniors, the need for organ transplants is growing with our aging population. The number of kidney patients on dialysis has doubled since 1981. Forty-eight percent of patients with the most severe form of kidney failure are over 65. At the same time, Canada’s organ donor rate —already amongst the lowest in the industrialized world — decreased by 5% in 1998.
Myth no. 3: I can’t donate because my religion wouldn’t permit it.
Fact: Many people, especially seniors, mistakenly believe that their religion will not allow organ donation. In fact, all but the Shinto religion encourage organ donation as an act of love and charity.
Myth no. 4: I don’t want my loved one to be an organ donor because I’ve heard stories that brain dead people can actually wake up or that they may feel pain.
Fact: It is impossible to recover from brain death. Brain death is not the same as a coma. Death can occur in two ways: 1) when the heart and lungs stop functioning and 2) when the brain stops functioning. When a patient is brain dead, heart and lung function can be maintained only with the aid of artificial life support.
Myth no. 5: If I sign a donor card, maybe I won’t be given proper medical care in an emergency situation.
Fact: It is illegal to deny medical care and doctors don’t look for organ donor cards when providing emergency assistance.
Myth no. 6: I have a disease so I must not be able to donate organs and tissues.
Fact: Even those with illnesses may donate something to help save or improve lives. For example, cancer patients could still donate corneas, depending on the type of cancer.
Myth no. 7: With all the medical advances, they must be able to save lives other ways so my organs wouldn’t make a big difference.
Fact: The need for organ donation is growing with our aging population. For instance, 48% of the patients with the most severe form of kidney disease are over 65. At the same time, the number of donated organs is decreasing.
Myth no. 8: My family will get a bill because provincial health coverage stops when I die.
Fact: Health coverage includes organ donation so there is no burden for the family. Transplants actually save our health system millions in medical care. If every dialysis patient got a kidney transplant, the health care system would enjoy net savings of $240 million dollars every year.
Myth no. 9: They’ll give my organs to medical science and my family will never be able to have a proper funeral.
Fact: Your signed organ donor card authorizes only organ retrieval unless otherwise stated. The entire process takes approximately 24 hours, and then the body is released to the family for funeral arrangements. Incisions from the surgery are carefully sewn up so that at an open-casket funeral no one can tell that organ donation has taken place.
Myth no. 10: Canada is one of the best places to live and we’re known as very generous people so there must not be a big problem in our country.
Fact: Canada’s organ donor rate is one of the lowest in the industrialized world at nearly 14 donors per million, a decrease of 5% in 1998, the latest year in which statistics are available. Spain’s is 30+ per million. U.S. is 21+.
SUGGESTED SERMON NOTES- Organ and Tissue Donation
(Please note: this, and the following speech notes were created for the Sandrine’s Gift of Life campaign and is included here as a guide. Feel free to use them as they are, or adjust them to give them a local flavour.)
Our congregation has been asked to participate in a wonderful form of giving. Sandrine's Gift of Life is a national campaign aimed at increasing the number of organ and tissue donors in Canada. Sandrine’s Gift of Life has grown out of an enormously successful campaign, held in the spring of 1999, to raise organ and tissue donor awareness in the national capital region.
At the end of May 1999, 11-year-old Sandrine Craig died after a tragic school bus accident. Friends of her family , saddened by her death, launched an intense organ and tissue donation awareness campaign. In just two and a half weeks, they distributed more than 90,000 organ donor cards.
With that campaign as inspiration, Sandrine’s Gift of Life hopes that at least two million Canadians will sign organ and tissue donor cards this year, and — most importantly — talk to their families about their decision. Doing so doubles the chance that their wishes will be respected.
Community groups, medical associations, business organizations, various organ and tissue donor groups, and community college students across Canada are providing manpower to fuel the energy of this campaign. But in the end, the most important person is you, regardless of your age. Incidentally, the oldest organ donor was 90 and the tissue donor over 102, so you’re never too old.
The campaign honours the wonderful gift made by Sandrine's mother and brother. In a time of overwhelming sadness, they made the decision to donate Sandrine’s organs to needy patients across Canada. Six people, including three children, now live or have more complete lives because of Sandrine's Gift.
Most religions have sanctioned organ donation by brain-dead patients as an act of love and charity. Although research on artificial replacement organs is progressing, organ transplants are still the most reliable way to give many sick people the opportunity to live a better life.
In Canada, we have the technology to make many more organ and tissue transplants than are currently performed. But the donor shortage is severe. More than 3,500 sick people await transplants, and the number is growing daily. More than 150 of these patients die each year before a donor organ becomes available.
The rate of organ donation in Canada is 1/2 that of Spain, less than in the United States; and one of the lowest in the industrialized world. You and your families need to discuss the possibility of organ donation — what should we do if one of us suffers a misfortune that leaves the body whole but with no chance of recovery?
If families settle that decision well in advance of a catastrophic situation, they will not feel confused and uncertain when doctors ask whether their loved one could be an organ and tissue donor. If the family refuses permission, doctors will not go ahead with transplantation — even when an donor card has been signed.
Diane Craig, the mother of young Sandrine says it so well when she describes how she came to her decision. “Once I was told that Sandrine was brain dead,” says Mrs. Craig, “I lay there beside her. I could hear her heart beat and feel her chest rising and falling and I asked myself, ‘How could I throw all of that good away?’”
Diane’s teenage son Kenny didn’t hesitate to agree to his mother’s decision. “We believe that the body is only the carrying case for the soul,” he says, “And once we knew that Sandrine’s soul was in heaven, we had no qualms at all about donating her organs.”
If families refuse the chance for organ donation, says Diane Craig, “It’s the same as if a person with a full plate of food was standing beside a starving person and threw that food away in the garbage. What a waste!”
None of us likes to think of our passing. The Craig’s never thought that they would be faced with making a heart-wrenching decision about Sandrine either. So, in honour of Sandrine’s Gift of Life, I urge you to think about organ donation and to talk to your family about your wishes. We all need to talk together, to pray, to decide if we can make the kind of gift to humanity that Sandrine's Gift of Life symbolizes.
SUGGESTED GENERIC SPEECH NOTES – Organ and Tissue donation
We are so pleased to be part of Sandrine's Gift of Life, a national campaign aimed at increasing the number of organ and tissue donors in Canada.
Sandrine’s Gift of Life has grown from an enormously successful donor awareness campaign held in the spring of 1999 in the National Capital Region. It is named after Sandrine Craig, a beautiful 11-year-old girl who died in a school bus accident. The Craig family donated Sandrine’s organs to give six other people — three of them children — a better chance at life.
Family and friends of Sandrine’s mother, Diane were inspired by the family’s courage and generosity at a time of overwhelming sadness. So they organized an intensive organ and tissue donation awareness campaign — strictly a volunteer, low-budget effort — and distributed 90,000 organ donor cards.
This national campaign — Sandrine’s Gift of Life — won’t measure success in the number of organ and tissue donor cards signed, but in the number of organ donations that can save lives.
Canada’s organ and tissue donor rate is dismal, half that of Spain’s, less than the organ donor rate in the United States — our organ and tissue donor rate is one of the lowest in the industrialized world.
That means that out of the three thousand people waiting for organ and tissue transplants today, statistics predict that more than 150 Canadians will die this year, waiting for a lifesaving transplant that never comes. Canada has the technology to make more organ and tissue transplants than it does.
Unfortunately, statistics also tell us that nearly half of organs and tissues that are suitable for transplant will be wasted, because families refuse consent for donation. Even when an official organ and tissue donor card is signed, a family — shocked and grief-stricken — may not be sure that’s what their loved one really wanted.
So, in order to increase organ and tissue donations and to save lives — Sandrine’s Gift of Life is telling Canadians: “Talk to you family about organ donation. Someone’s life depends on it.”
Using that campaign as an inspiration, it is hoped that at least two million Canadians will not only sign their organ and tissue donor card, but most importantly talk to their family about their decision. Doing so doubles the chance that your wishes will be respected.
Through the assistance of the Kidney Foundation of Canada’s Eastern Ontario Branch and the Association of Canadian Community Colleges, community groups, medical associations, business organizations, and community college students across Canada are providing the manpower to help fuel the energy of the Campaign. But in the end, the most important person is you, regardless of your age. Incidentally, the oldest organ donor was 90 and the tissue donor over 102, so you’re never too old.
The campaign uses the wonderful gift made by Sandrine's mother, Diane, and brother Kenny, who made the decision to donate Sandrine’s organs and tissue to needy patients across Canada. Six people, including three children, now live or have more complete lives because of Sandrine's Gift.
You and your families need to discuss this whole topic. What should we do if one of us suffers a mishap that leaves our body whole but leaves us with no chance of recovery?
If families settle in their minds well in advance of a possible catastrophic situation, there will not arise a feeling of confusion that often exists when doctors ask whether the dying person could be an organ and tissue donor.
Doctors will never go ahead without the permission of the next of kin.
Diane Craig says it so well when she describes how she came to her decision. “Once I was told that Sandrine was brain dead,” says Mrs. Craig, “I lay there beside her. I could hear her heart beat and feel her chest rising and falling and I asked myself, ‘How could I throw all of that good away?’ It’s the same as if a person with a full plate of food was standing beside someone who is starving then threw that food away in the garbage. What a waste!”
None of us likes to think of our passing, but as the Craig’s say, they never thought that they would be faced with that heart-wrenching decision either.
· Many people think they are too old to be a donor. You might be surprised to know that the oldest organ donor in Ontario was 92.
· Many people think that it is unlucky to talk about organ and tissue donation. This “supersititious avoidance” is the same reason people don’t make out wills.
· Some people don’t think their religion approves. In fact, most religions, including the Jewish faith, have sanctioned organ and tissue donation by brain-dead patients to give their organs and tissues to patients in distress.
· Others are queasy about their loved one’s body being cut and feel that they won’t be able to have an open casket. Not so. As 17 year old Kenny said, “we believe that the body is only the carrying case for our soul and once we knew that Sandrine’s soul was in heaven, we had no qualms at all about donating her organs.”
· Maybe you just haven’t thought about it. Over 90% of the people who do think about it are in favour of organ and tissue donation. However, only 38% actually sign an organ and tissue donor card.
Donating one’s organs and tissues saves money as well as lives. According to the Kidney Foundation of Canada’s Eastern Ontario Branch, if every Canadian now on dialysis were to receive a donated organ, the NET savings to our health care system would be $240 Million per year! Add to that the vastly improved productivity and quality of life of those on dialysis, and you have many more reasons to talk about organ and tissue donation.
So, in honour of Sandrine’s Gift of Life, and the gift of life of many others, I urge you to think about organ and tissue donation and speak to your family about your wishes.
Someone’s life depends on it.
We hope this manual has been helpful.