07/07/2015 04:00 EDT | Updated 07/06/2016 05:59 EDT

Millions In Ontario Register As Organ Donors, Breaking Records And Saving Lives

TORONTO - He was a father, a fiance, a real go-getter and, in the end, he also saved lives.

Aaron Murray was driving home after a long day of work, college and errands for his three-week old son when he crashed his car and died in Peterborough, Ont., in April 2014.

The 21-year-old's sudden end gave life to others as Murray was one of an increasing number of Ontarians deciding to be an organ donor.

Numbers released Tuesday by the Trillium Gift of Life Network show a record number of Ontario residents have registered to be organ donors.

About 27 per cent of the eligible population, or 3.2 million people, is registered to donate. That's up from 25 per cent last year and up from 16 per cent in 2008, when the Gift of Life Network started tracking affirmative registration rates.

Murray's mother says her son's donation saved at least two lives, with one dialysis patient receiving his kidney and another person receiving his second kidney and his pancreas.

Terry Ward says she was aware of her son's wishes before the accident, making her decision to give permission for donation easier.

"It's got to be something you think of beforehand because at the time you just want to hold them," Ward said from Belleville, Ont. "You'd like to pretend nothing's happening."

Organ donation was an issue close to Murray as his grandfather's life was saved by a heart transplant 27 years ago. Gerald Kincaid, 72, has been able to see his four daughters marry and meet more than 10 grandchildren and great-grandchildren because of the donation.

"It was always very important to our entire family," Ward said. "What I think Aaron would like is to know that the individuals getting his (organs) truly appreciated the benefits and lived every day."

Over the last year, 271 deceased donors saved the lives of 960 people while 278 living donors helped 213 kidney recipients and 65 liver recipients, the Gift of Life Network reports.

The organization also says 1,953 tissue donors provided eyes, skin, heart valves or bone to benefit those in need.

Increasing the number of hospitals required to report potential donors under the Trillium Gift of Life Network Act has contributed to the rising number of donations, said Ronnie Gavsie, president and CEO of the Trillium Gift of Life Network.

Public reporting on how well hospitals have identified potential donors and engaging doctors to take greater responsibility for educating and providing families with the opportunity to donate have also helped, Gavsie said.

"We've seen such a very clear trajectory upwards in the last couple of years and it's been sustained in Ontario," Gavsie said.

The biggest barrier to attracting donors has been a lack of discussion in families over this issue, says Gavsie, who believes stories of people like Murray will help more people decide to register for the program.

"That makes people think and they realize this is not something that happens to someone else, it can happen to any one of us."

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