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MPP honours Cousens through bill

Feb 18, 2006
Michael Power, Staff Writer
Markham Economist

A question you may be answering when you get a driver's licence or health card is if you want to donate your organs after death.

Oak Ridges MPP Frank Klees introduced a private member's bill at Queen's Park Wednesday that would require those 16 years of age or older to answer "yes", "no" or "undecided" to whether they wish to donate their organs.

"I believe it strikes a balance between respect for people's personal choice, but it will also raise awareness and allow people to focus on the issue and give it serious thought," Mr. Klees said.

Currently, if people don't fill out a donor card, their organs can't be donated unless family gives consent.

Some people have traveled to the United States for transplants, while others, who have remained on organ donor waiting lists in Ontario, haven't been so lucky, he said.

"People have died on these waiting lists and are dying every day," said Mr. Klees.

About half of all Canadians who need organ transplants live in Ontario.

A competing bill, introduced Thursday at Queen's Park by New Democrat MP Peter Kormos, would see a dead person's organs harvested unless the deceased has indicated otherwise.

The practice, known as presumed consent, is law in about 20 European countries.

And while he respects Mr. Kormos for bringing the bill forward, Canada isn't ready for the notion, Mr. Klees said.

"I think that presumed consent is going too far," he said. "I don't think it respects the personal choice of individuals and I don't think it would be accepted by Canadians."

Mr. Klees said he tabled the bill in honour of Markham Mayor Don Cousens, a recipient of a kidney.

Mr. Cousens, 66, had a kidney transplant three years ago after experiencing organ failure.

A friend donated the kidney.

"(Mr. Klees) and I discussed it and I'm really touched by it, I'm really honoured," Mr. Cousens said. "It (the bill) is a step in the right direction. Whether it's the final step I don't know but I'm really honoured."

Mr. Cousens' condition, known as polycystic kidney disease, is hereditary and causes fluid-filled cysts to form in the kidneys.

Since the transplant, Mr. Cousens has faced complications because of the disease. He declined to talk in detail about his health, but said he may need another kidney at some point.

"Let's just say that I could be a prospect for a transplant," he said.

He agreed with Mr. Klees that Canadians would embrace more readily a choice on organ donation, which at least lets people mull over the issue. ."

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