The Commonwealth Tribute to Life project creates a framework for Commonwealth nations to share knowledge and expertise for the purpose of improving organ and tissue donation and transplantation systems around the world, with the aim of saving more lives. Canada, represented by Canadian Blood Services, is a signatory and supporter of this noble and humanitarian effort.
Catherine Butler, Director OTDT, Canadian Blood Services is representative for Canada on the Commonwealth Tribute for Life project
Showcasing organ and tissue donation and its powerful impact on patients, families and communities, the inaugural ceremony celebrating the Commonwealth Tribute to Life project took place on July 22, 2022, in Birmingham, U.K. as part of the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
41 of the 54 Commonwealth member nations have committed to this cooperative initiative, representing 80% of all Commonwealth citizens. Commonwealth nations comprise 30% of the global population representing 2.5 billion adults and children.
The rate of organ and tissue donation varies from zero donors in some Commonwealth nations to over 20 per million population in countries like Australia, Canada, Malta, and the U.K.
“Canada’s per million population rate for organ donation compares with the U.K. and Australia. At approximately 20 organ donors per year/per million population, we have demonstrated some success and initiated programs that have improved the system here in Canada,” says Catherine Butler, Director Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation at Canadian Blood Services and representative for Canada on the Commonwealth Tribute for Life project.
“We’re making progress but still the need for organs outweighs the supply in Canada. Our learnings, experience and clinical experts have much to offer nations just developing organ donation programs. And our programs here in Canada can benefit from shared knowledge and experiences in other parts of the world - all to help those patients – adults and children - in need of lifesaving transplant.”
The World Health Organization Global Observatory on Donation and Transplantation estimates that there were over 130,000 organs transplanted in 2020. These gifts of life came from the generosity of over 40,000 living donors (most commonly through the donation of a kidney) and from nearly 39,000 deceased organ donors. However, thousands of citizens around the world die each year waiting for an organ transplant.
In Canada, there are more than 4,000 Canadians waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant. 75% of those are waiting for a kidney. There remains a shortage of organs for transplant. Each year, approx. 250 Canadians die waiting for a lifesaving transplant. As of Dec. 31, 2021, about one third of Canadians have registered their intent to donate their organs or tissues after death. Yet, according to polls, 90 per cent of Canadians support the idea of organ and tissue donation.
Members of the Commonwealth Tribute to Life Project face common challenges to increase rates of donation across all social groups, ethnicities, and religions, and believe more can be done to share knowledge and expertise using the historical ties and established relationships with Commonwealth citizens and governments. Through sharing knowledge and awareness around organ and tissue donation and transplantation, Commonwealth nations will work together to save and transform the lives of thousands of patients in need of transplant and aim to address inequities across all social groups and ethnicities around the globe.
The Commonwealth Tribute to Life project aims to champion three main concepts: the value of organ and tissue donation and transplantation in saving and transforming lives; the need to ensure safe and ethical practice; and the benefits that can be shared by all Commonwealth nations through learning and sharing solutions with each other about the common challenges faced.
Links to learning more:
Canadian Blood Services works with the Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation (OTDT) community to improve national system performance and increase equitable access to donation and transplant in Canada.
We do this through the development of leading practices, professional education, public awareness and data analysis and reporting. We also manage clinical programs that support interprovincial sharing of organs.
Register your intent to be an organ and tissue donor through your province or territory and have that all-important conversation with your family and learn more about educating others. Visit organtissuedonation.ca to access information about how to register a decision about organ and tissue donation where you live.