Brian Masse on Power and Politics

Speaking in Support of the iCANdonate Campaign

Participants: BRIAN MASSE, AMANDA IARUSSO

ROSEMARY BARTON(NEWSCASTER):

WELCOME BACK. SEXUALLY ACTIVE HOMOSEXUAL MEN ARE REJECTED AS ORGAN DONORS BECAUSE HEALTH CANADA DEEMS THEM TO BE HIGH RISK. ROCKY CAMPANO WAS A 23-YEAR-OLD MAN WITH HEALTHY ORGANS WHEN HE DIED, BUT THEY WEREN'T ACCEPTED FOR DONATIONS BECAUSE HE WAS SEXUALLY ACTIVE WITH MEN. HIS PARENTS STARTED A CAMPAIGN TO DRUM UP SUPPORT FOR CHANGES TO THE LAWS WHICH VARY FROM PROVINCE TO PROVINCE. NDP MP BRIAN MASSE PICKED UP THE CAUSE AND PRESENTED A PETITION IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS LAST WEEK. SO ARE CANADA'S LAWS FOR ORGAN AND THE EXECUTIVE COORDINATOR OF I CAN DONATE CAMPAIGN, AMANDA IARUSSO. BRIAN MASSE, WHAT WAS IT ABOUT ROCKY'S STORY THAT DREW YOU IN? TELL US ABOUT THE STORY ITSELF.

I CAME ACROSS THE PARENTS AT A SOCIAL FUNCTION. THEY TOLD ME ABOUT THE SITUATION AND I JUST THOUGHT THE SADNESS OF A FAMILY HAVING TO GO THROUGH SUCH A TRAGEDY AND THEN WANTING TO GIVE BACK TO SOCIETY AND TO GIVE BACK TO SOMEONE ELSE, THE GIFT OF LIFE, AND IT WAS JUST REALLY DIFFICULT TO LISTEN HOW THEY WENT THROUGH A PROCESS WHERE THEY TRIED TO DONATE ROCKY'S ORGANS AND THEY JUST RAN INTO PROBLEM AFTER PROBLEM AFTER PROBLEM AFTER ROCKY IDENTIFIED THIS WAS HIS WISH. SO I'VE DEALT WITH SOME OF THESE ISSUES IN THE PAST, IN SOCIAL JUSTICE AND ALSO THE COMMUNITY, AND SO I THOUGHT THAT THEIR PETITION DRIVE WAS VERY VALID. WHAT THEY WERE ASKING FOR WAS VERY MODEST IN TERMS OF THE REVIEW OF THIS, AND TO SEE IT THROUGH, AND SO AS A MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT I WAS HAPPY TO BE DRAWN INTO THIS VERY MUCH A JUST CAUSE. Rosemary: SO, AMANDA IARUSSO, FELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE -- TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE REGULATIONS THEMSELVES. IN 2007 HEALTH CANADA MADE THESE CHANGES THAT SAID THAT ORGAN DONATIONS WHICH INCLUDED LISTING SEXUALLY ACTIVE MEN AS HIGH RISK. ARE THOSE REGULATIONS STILL NECESSARY? DO YOU THINK THAT THEY FUEL DISCRIMINATION TOWARDS HOMOSEXUAL MEN? WHERE DO YOU THINK THOSE REGULATIONS NEED TO GO?

WELL, CERTAINLY THESE REGULATIONS WERE PUT IN PLACE FOR A REASON, AND WE UNDERSTAND THE NEED TO SEE SOME SORT OF STANDARDIZED PROCESS FOR SCREENING CANDIDATES WHO MAY BE ELIGIBLE TO DONATE ORGANS AND BLOOD, BUT OBVIOUSLY ANY SORT OF MEDICAL POLICY NEEDS TO BE BACKED BY SCIENCE, AND UNFORTUNATELY THE CASE IS THAT MANY MEN WHO ARE HAVING SEX WITH OTHER MEN ARE NOT EVEN BEING TESTED, AND THEY'RE NOT EVEN BEING CONSIDERED ELIGIBLE TO DONATE THEIR ORGANS, AND ON THE FLIP SIDE, CANADIAN TRANSPLANT PATIENTS AREN'T NECESSARILY HAVING THE CHOICE TO EVEN RECEIVING ORGANS FROM THESE PEOPLE. SO REALLY WE HAVE TWO PROBLEMS WITH THE CURRENT POLICY.

Rosemary: SO, BRIAN MASSE, WHAT ARE YOU ASKING THE GOVERNMENT TO DO ON BEHALF OF THE FAMILY HERE?

ESSENTIALLY WE'RE JUST ASKING THE GOVERNMENT TO COME FORWARD, AND THIS IS WHY WE DID THE PETITION, TO MAKE IT NON-PARTISAN AND TO MAKE IT CLEAR FROM WHAT THE GOVERNMENT POLICY AND HOW THEY WANT TO RESPOND IS TO WHETHER OR NOT TO OPEN THE SYSTEM OR REVIEW, EVEN HAVE A DISCUSSION. SO WE'RE OPEN IN MANY DIFFERENT FRONTS, BUT THE IDEA HERE IS TO BRING AWARENESS TO NOT ONLY JUST THE MINISTER AND THE DEPARTMENTS, BUT ALSO PARLIAMENTARIANS THAT WEREN'T AWARE OF THIS AS WELL. SO THE PETITION DRIVE IS VERY SOLID PLAN, AND WE HAVE OVER 40 MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT THAT HAVE ALREADY SIGNED OFF ON THE PETITION AND HAVE STOOD IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS OR SENT IT IN AND WE'LL HAVE OTHERS AS WELL. SO THIS IS A PUBLIC AWARENESS AS MUCH AS IT IS FINALLY GETTING A CHANGE. SO THE PUBLIC AWARENESS IS ALL PART OF THE PATH TO GET THERE.

Rosemary: AMANDA, TELL US ABOUT HOW OTHER COUNTRIES DO IT. IN EUROPE AND THE U.S., WHAT ARE THE REGULATIONS AROUND ORGAN DONATION IN THOSE COUNTRIES?

WELL, CERTAINLY IT DEPENDS COUNTRY TO COUNTRY. Rosemary: YEAH.

ESPECIALLY CONSIDERING WE HAVE A UNIFORM HEALTH-CARE SYSTEM HERE IN CANADA. WE SEE IN THE UNITED STATES THAT THEY HAVE ADOPTED A SYSTEM WHERE, FORTATES THAT WHERE, FOR EXAMPLE, PEOPLE WHO ARE INFECTED WITH HIV OR AIDS ARE STILL ABLE TO DONATE THEIR ORGANS TO PEOPLE WITH SIMILAR DISEASES, BUT ULTIMATELY, ROSEMARY, WHAT WE'RE SEEING HERE IN CANADA IS THAT PROVINCE TO PROVINCE THERE ARE REALLY DISCREPANCIES ON HOW EACH PROVINCIAL TRANSPLANT AGENCY IS DEALING WITH TRANSPLANT STATIONS FROM THESE COMMUNITIES WHO ARE -- TRANSPLANTATION FROM THESE COMMUNITIES WHO ARE ON THIS DISCOLLUSIONRY LIST. WE'RE SEEING -- DISCOLLUSIONRY LIST. WE'RE --

Rosemary: I DON'T KNOW IF IT COULD BE NATURALLY STANDARDIZED, BUT IF THERE WAS A STANDARDIZATION OF HOW ORGAN DONATION WOULD WORK IN THIS COUNTRY? WE ARE WORKING WITH THE CANADIAN TRANSPLANT ASSOCIATION PROGRAM TO LOOK AT HOW TO IMPLEMENT STANDARDIZED FORMS IN EACH AGENCY SO AS SOON AS SOMEBODY GOES ON THE WAIT LIST THEY OBVIOUSLY HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO SAY THAT THEY WOULD CONSENT RECEIVING AN ORGAN OR TISSUE FROM ONE OF THESE EXCLUDED GROUPS OF PEOPLE.

Rosemary: JUST TO GIVE PEOPLE SOME PERSPECTIVE ON WHERE ORGAN DONATION IS AT IN THIS COUNTRY, THERE WERE FIGURES RELEASED LAST WEEK BY THE TRILLIUM GIFT FOR LIFE NETWORK FOR ONTARIO HOSPITALS THAT SHOW THEY MANAGED TO CONVERT 52% OF DONORS INTO ACTUAL DONORS BETWEEN APRIL AND DECEMBER LAST YEAR, WHILE 4,500 CANADIANS ARE WAITING FOR ORGAN TRANSPLANTS TODAY. BRIAN, ARE THOSE NUMBERS WORRISOME AND DO THEY SPEAK TO THE FACT THAT MAYBE SOME OF THE REGULATIONS AROUND ORGAN DONATION NEED TO BE REVIEWED?

THEY'RE VERY WORRISOME. AND ALSO WE HAVE A MISSED OPPORTUNITY BY EXCLUDING THIS POPULATION OF PEOPLE WHERE SCIENCE SHOWS THAT THEY CAN GET SCREENED PROPERLY. AS WELL AS WE'RE ELIMINATING CHOICE FOR PEOPLE FOR ORGAN DONATION. IT'S A SOCIAL JUSTICE ISSUE. IT'S ALSO AN ECONOMIC ISSUE BECAUSE THE BETTER THAT PEOPLE GET AND THE MORE FUNCTIONING CAPABILITIES THEY HAVE IN SOCIETY THE MORE SHE CAN CONTRIBUTE EITHER AS A WORKER, AS A VOLUNTEER, AS A PARENT, AS A GRANDPARENT. THOSE ARE ALL THINGS THAT WE NEED TO CONSIDER WHEN WE LOOK AT THIS MISSED OPPORTUNITY.

Rosemary: AMANDA, I'LL GET YOU TO WEIGH IN ON THAT, THE FACT THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE THAT ARE EVEN WILLING TO DONATE ORGANS AND HOW YOU RECONCILE THAT WITH THESE STRICT REGULATIONS.

ABSOLUTELY. WELL, WHAT WE BELIEVE, IT'S SIMPLY UNACCEPTABLE THAT OVER 250 CANADIANS ARE DYING ANNUALLY, WAITING FOR AN ORGAN TRANSPLANT. SOME RESEARCH SHOWS THAT IN A HOSPITAL IN TORONTO SEVEN OUT OF 100 POTENTIAL ORGAN DONOR CANDIDATES ARE BEING REJECTED SOLELY BASED ON THIS CRITERIA WHEN WE KNOW THAT A SINGLE PERSON CAN SAVE UP TO EIGHT OTHER LIVES. THE CURRENT POLICIES ARE CURRENTLY NOT WORKING, AND CERTAINLY PUBLICATIONS DONE BY THE LIBRARY OF PARLIAMENT AND OTHER PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEES DO SHOW AND DEMONSTRATE THE NEED THAT WE NEED TO LOOK HOW WE CAN USE ORGANS FROM THESE HIGH-RISK GROUPS. Rosemary: THANK YOU BOTH FOR BEING HERE. I APPRECIATE YOU BRINGING ATTENTION TO THIS ISSUE. THANKS. THANK YOU, ROSEMARY.

THANK YOU SO MUCH, ROSEMARY.