The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) urges Health Canada to amend new national regulations on eligibility for organ donation because, as worded, they are discriminatory, not evidence based, and impede access to health care.
Recently announced changes to federal regulations exclude “men who have had sex with other men in the preceding five years” among those who are banned from donating their organs. RNAO is concerned that instead of carefully assessing an individual for behaviour that might put him or her at risk for contracting an infectious disease, this policy perpetuates a negative stereotype.
As Dr. Gary Levy, director of the multi-organ transplant program at the University Health Network explains: “In the past, the gay community was considered a high-risk community because of perception of high-risk behaviour. We now know it’s not a homogenous community. The fact is, if someone has 62 partners, whether it’s heterosexual or homosexual, there is still a risk”
Rather than a homophobic generalization that paints all sex between men as a source of potential infection, eligibility must be determined by a careful assessment of actual risks for all people, irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity. This is essential in order to ensure public safety so that decisions are based on evidence rather than stereotypes.
In addition to the human rights and public safety, there is also a compelling argument that this confusing new regulation impedes the recruitment of eligible organ donors in a context where 4,000 Canadians are waiting for an organ transplant. Dr. Levy has estimated that this new regulation would result in seven rejections out of a hundred organ donors at the University Health Network.
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