Organ donor registration rates in 2016 range from 20 to 46% across Ontario

There is large regional variation of organ donor registrants across the province ranging from 20 per cent in the Metropolitan Toronto area to 46 per cent in the Northern regions of Ontario, according to a new study by researchers at ICES.

When the online portal was launched in 2011, donor registration rates among eligible Ontario residents was 18 per cent, it increased to 30 per cent by 2016. The researchers examined the number of organ donor registrants for five separate regions in Ontario:  Eastern, Central, Metropolitan Toronto, Southwestern and Northern.

“Lower than average organ donor registration rates were consistently found in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). The GTA had lower rates in 2011 and 2016 than non-GTA areas. However, the change in the GTA was significantly higher than in other parts of Ontario,” says Piotr Wilk, lead author of the study, associate scientist at Lawson Health Research Institute, Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western University and a fellow at ICES.

The study published today in Healthcare Quarterly showed the GTA had lower rates in 2011 (12 per cent) and 2016 (21 per cent) than non-GTA areas. However, the change over the five-year period, was higher in the GTA (74 per cent increase) compared to non-GTA areas (56 per cent increase). 

For Southwestern Ontario, 504,000 people were registered as donors in 2011, about 22.5 per cent of the adult population. By 2016, the number of registered donors in this region climbed to 825,000 people, about 36.4 per cent of the adult population. 

Currently, according to the Trillium Gift of Life Network (TGLN), only one in three (4.1 out of 12.4 million) eligible Ontarians are registered to be organ donors.



“Our study provides a better understanding of how donor registration rates are patterned across Ontario and where clusters of high or low rates exist. As the need for organs exceeds supply, we must develop tailored initiatives to increase the number of potential organ donors. Knowing where to focus registration efforts will aid in the effectiveness of potential initiatives,” says Wilk. 

TGLN works at educating the public about organ and tissue donation in Ontario. It encourages Ontarians to register their consent to donate organs and/or tissue. Registrants must be 16 years of age or older, have a valid health card and can only respond in the affirmative to donor registration. Registration can be completed online, by mail or in-person at Service Ontario centres.

There are approximately 1,600 people in Ontario waiting for a life-saving organ transplant and every three days someone dies while waiting.

The article, “Exploring spatial variation in registration for deceased organ donation in Ontario, Canada,” is published in the 21(3) issue of Healthcare Quarterly.