Organ Donor Doc 'Vital Bonds' Will Wrench Your Heart And Change Your Mind

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Organ donation in Canada is in a state of crisis. Only 25 per cent of Canadians have registered to donate our organs, even though 90 per cent support the idea.

It's one of the lowest sign-up rates in the industrialized world.

Every day, one in four Canadians that need lung transplants die, and four on the kidney wait list die.

Altogether, around 250 people die each year while they wait for an organ transplant.

Those are the statistics, but up until now that's mostly all we've had. "Vital Bonds," a "Nature of Things" documentary, changes all that.

vital bonds
Parents of baby needing heart transplant wait with their child in hospital. (Photo: CBC)

Narrated by David Suzuki and directed by Niobe Thompson, the film brings us into the organ transplant unit of one of Canada’s busiest transplant hospitals: The University of Alberta. Filmed over five months, the documentary provides an unprecedented look at the pain that comes when parents have to decide whether or not to donate their son's organs — but it also captures the joy when a baby gets a life-saving heart transplant.

"Many families said no to the [documentary] project, understandably," Thompson told HuffPost Canada. "You're asking for access to people's lives at a very vulnerable time. The ones whose stories you see [in the film] are the ones who thought that, by sharing their story, they could make a difference."

Suzuki suggests that switching to an opt-out system — rather than our current opt-in system — would increase organ donation. However, the activist said it ultimately comes down to educating people about why donations matter from a young age.

"One of the most powerful parts of the film was to see the families that are still trying to come to grips that he's gone, that there's no hope," Suzuki said. "Meanwhile, the doctors are just waiting, not wanting to put pressure but [thinking], 'Please make the decision so we can get going.'

That's so dramatic and it could be alleviated a lot with prior education."

Suzuki hopes the film can pass along valuable information, but also put a face on the issue through the families' stories.

"I narrate all our films for the 'Nature of Things' and I very seldom get choked up doing the narration, but I had to stop several times because my voice cracked," he recalled. "It's such a powerful film."

Watch the full HuffPost Live interview below:

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