Organ and tissue donation have many myths and stigmas attached to them within the South Asian community and yet there are so many possible benefits and lives that can be saved by such a tremendous act. As a result of misconceptions Ontario, and the GTA itself, are far behind the country and the rest of the world in terms of organ and tissue Donation.
In Ontario, less than 25% of residents have registered their consent to be donors. Within the GTA, only 15% are registered, despite being the city with the highest population in Canada. The GTA itself has the lowest percentage of organ and tissue donors compared to rural areas in Ontario; currently, Toronto is ranked at 170 out of 179 cities. Why are people not donating and what is stopping them?
The main myths acting as a deterrent to donating seem to be regarding whether an individual’s religion permits them to do so, though a vast majority of major world religions encourage and accept the giving of organ and tissues to save lives.
Secondly, many are unaware of how the organs are collected and think they would not be able to have an open casket funeral, which is false. Organ and tissue donation doesn’t interfere with having an open-casket funeral and the greatest care is taken when the process is completed.
Lastly, many people believe they are too old or too sick to donate. When, in fact there is no defined cutoff age for donating and the decision is based on strict medical criteria, not an individuals age. Only medical professionals at the time of your death can determine whether your organs are suitable for transplantation.
The Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA), is working with the primary goal of breaking cultural and religious barriers surrounding organ and tissue donation through education, and creating awareness within South Asian communities – specifically the Tamil, Punjabi and Hindi speaking communities. We hope to increase the donor registration in the GTA in the next few months, and to achieve this, we have created the 100-Day Campaign that started on February 1 and will run until May 11. Through this campaign we hope to raise awareness and educate as many people as possible through social media, television and radio networks, holding booths at various events and conducting presentations.
For more information on the campaign in Tamil, visit the Tamil registration site here.