People should be asked whether or not they are willing to donate their organs when they go to apply for or renew their driver’s licenses in this country, head of the National Organ Transplant Unit (NOTU) Dr Shaun Lynch has said.
This, Lynch said, is now an accepted standard that has been implemented internationally to provide a simple way for people to record their legal decision to become an organ donor in the event of their death.
“One of the things in Ontario where I trained, is that they are asking you if you are willing to be an organ donor when you go to renew your driver’s license,” Lynch told Guardian Media in a telephone interview.
“You will have a little box there that you can tick and I think that gets the word to far more people because most people of driving age would have a driver’s permit and therefore you would get the chance and opportunity then to declare whether you want be a donor or not.”
“I think that is something that we need to do,” Lynch said as he acknowledged that implementing such a change may require changes to legislation or parliamentary debate.
Lynch officially assumed the job of NOTU’s medical director on March 1. However, he has worked with the unit for the past three years.
Last week, T&T would have been on course to record its 200th kidney transplant but unfortunately one of two planned transplants had to be cancelled because the recipient had a positive crossmatch, Lynch said.
“When they have that we cannot do the transplant. They did all of their work up to this point and that was the last test we did and that test failed,” he said.
A positive crossmatch means the recipient has antibodies “against” the donor’s cells. If the crossmatch is negative, the pair is considered compatible.
“Two hundred transplants is a good marker but that is 200 transplants over 16 years. I think we can do much better than that,” said.
The NOTU programme was established in 2006. So far, they have recorded 198 kidney transplants. Of that figure, 152 transplants were from living donors and 46 were from 27 deceased donors.
“I think we have the ability to improve on that. I think, easily, we could be doing 20 transplants a year and probably even more,” Lynch said.
“I worked in a unit in Toronto which is the largest transplant unit in North America, where we do over 200 transplants a year.”
World Kidney Day 2022 was celebrated last Thursday.
A simple ceremony to mark the day was held at the Guardian Media Ltd carpark in Port-of-Spain. The event was attended by Lynch, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh and GML Managing Director Dr Karrian Hepburn Malcolm.
Lynch said while it is good to have a day commemorating kidney health, he feels “awareness should be every day, every minute, every hour, everything we do.”
Lynch said he believes a good public relations campaign will be able to help improve this country’s donor numbers.
“There are some people who are still unaware that we have transplantation in Trinidad and Tobago,” Lynch said.
“I think there has been a gap with regards to health promotion and with regards to getting the word out there that we have this and we have the ability, we have the expertise, we have the staff to push this thing forward. And that will be my goal. My goal will be to get our numbers up to push this thing forward and part of that will be health promotion.”
Lynch lauded the team at the NOTU, his predecessors who headed the unit and the Kidney Recipient Support Group of T&T for doing all that they have been doing to bring kidney health awareness to the country.