WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government has rejected a proposal that would have made all people in the province organ donors unless they specifically requested not to be.
Members of the Progressive Conservative government caucus voted Tuesday against a private member's bill from Independent legislature member Steven Fletcher that would have set up presumed consent.
Fletcher proposed the idea as a way to cut long waiting lists for organ transplants.
The bill is to come to a final vote Thursday and Tory caucus spokesman Reg Helwer said his colleagues prefer to promote voluntary registration on the existing donor registry.
"We see the education side as the proper route to take," Helwer said.
"There are implications for particular religions that want to see their loved ones buried whole. There's all kinds of things that have to be covered off on this."
Premier Brian Pallister said he is willing to look at the issue at a later date — perhaps as a joint effort with other political parties — but he did not offer details.
"There could be ... an all-party type of mechanism and I'm exploring the options of possibly going that route," the premier said.
"I'm hopeful that we can come up with something even better than what has been initially proposed."
Manitoba, like other provinces, currently has an opt-in model under which people choose to be organ donors by signing up on a provincial website or on certain provincial identity cards.
Fletcher's bill, introduced last spring, would have presumed people to be organ donors unless they opted out by registering their desire not to donate.
There is no presumed consent anywhere in North America, Fletcher said, but some European countries have it.
The Saskatchewan government has been looking at presumed consent as well. Last week, it said that effort continues, but it will also focus on other ways to expand the donor pool.
Fletcher, who has been paralysed from the neck down since hitting a moose with his vehicle in 1996, said Tuesday he remembers being close to death in hospital, unable to talk and not having registered as an organ donor.
"If I had passed on, it would have been a real shame had my family — not knowing what my intentions were — decided to err on doing nothing," Fletcher told the legislature.
Opposition New Democrat Andrew Swan said Fletcher's bill warranted more examination, and suggested it could be passed into law with some changes following consultations with experts.
He pointed out there are potential problems with presumed consent, because people may be unaware of how to opt out or English may be a second language.
"It may be people ... who are not empowered, who may not know or who may not have the ability to truly consider this and make their own choices."