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CASSA launches the first South Asian Gift of Life Week

August 17, 2015 Toronto

The Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA) today announced South Asian Gift of Life Week, to be held October 5th to 11th, 2015. The goal of the week will be to address the cultural and religious myths about organ and tissue donation that persist in the South Asian community.

According to new research conducted at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), not only are South Asian Canadians less likely to register as organ donors, their families are also less likely to consent to deceased organ donation at the time of death, compared to the general Ontario population.

Published recently in the online journal PLOS ONE, the research found that:

  • Only 12.8 percent of South Asian Ontarians have registered consent to organ and tissue donation, compared to 25 percent of the general Ontario population (in 2012, at the time of the study).
  • Just over half (54.2 percent) of South Asian families consented to deceased organ donation when a family member died in hospital, compared to 68 percent of the general Ontario population.

The study—the first to document actual registration rates among ethnic minorities, rather than just expressed support to donate—included an examination of registration and consent in the Chinese community.

“In Canada, people of Chinese and South Asian ancestry represent the two largest visible ethnic minority groups, says Alvin Li, lead author on the ICES study. “The findings reveal that there is an opportunity to build support for organ and tissue donation in these communities, which would have a significant impact for those on the transplant waiting list.”

Today in Ontario, there are over 1,600 people waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. One organ donor can save up to eight lives and enhance as many as 75 through the gift of tissue.

“We need to address cultural and religious myths and misconceptions around organ and tissue donation through education, says Neethan Shan, executive director of CASSA.  “The need for an organ or tissue transplant can affect any one of us, no community is immune. It is important for South Asian Canadians to be part of the solution to stop preventable deaths on the transplant waiting list by registering consent through www.BeADonor.ca/southasian."

Registration saves lives. With evidence of their loved one’s registered consent, almost all families honour this donation decision. In the absence of registered consent, only 50 per cent of families consent to organ donation.

“Misunderstandings about the process of organ and tissue donation exist in every community, says Ronnie Gavsie, president and CEO of Trillium Gift of Life Network, Ontario’s organ and tissue donation and transplant agency. “We’re very happy to work with CASSA to support the Gift of Life week and the other work they are doing to correct misconceptions and encourage the South Asian community to register consent.”

The Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA) is an umbrella organization of agencies, groups, and individuals that provide services to the South Asian Community. We envision and strive for a Canada free of all forms of discrimination in which all communities are free from marginalization and are fully empowered to participate in defining Canada’s political, economic, social and cultural future. For more information on CASSA and the Gift of Life week: http://www.cassa.on.ca/wp2015/project/south-asian-gift-life-campaign/

Trillium Gift of Life Network is a not-for-profit agency of the Government of Ontario responsible for managing organ and tissue donation for transplantation across Ontario and improving the system so that more lives can be saved. For more information on Trillium Gift of Life Network, or to register as an organ and tissue donor: www.BeADonor.ca

ICES is an independent, non-profit organization that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of health care issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting health care needs of Ontarians and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy. For the latest ICES news, follow us on Twitter: @ICESOntario

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

  • Samya Hasan, Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA)
  • Samya@cassa.on.ca
  • 416-932-1359 ext. 12

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