New Brunswick teen's death highlights organ-donation gaps: expert

An expert says the story of a New Brunswick teen who died in a car crash last month is exposing the gaps in Canada's organ donation system.

David Hartell of the Canadian Donation and Transplantation Research Program says an estimated 4,000 Canadians who die each year have the potential to become organ donors, but only about 800 end up doing so.

He says the case of 16-year-old Avery Astle highlights the sad reality that even families who want to be donors sometimes aren't given the chance due to a lack of hospital resources, trained personnel or rigorous procedures to prioritize donation.

Astle's parents told CBC News they'd wanted to donate their sons' organs and tissues after he died in an April 20 crash but were told nobody from the specialized donation team was available.

The administrative director of the New Brunswick Organ and Tissue Program is blaming turnover within the tissue team for creating gaps in coverage the day Astle and three friends died after their vehicle veered off a wet, rural road in Miramichi and landed in a ditch filled with icy water.

Hartell says hospitals should track how many potential donors enter their emergency departments, and they should be held accountable if they fail to consult families about possible donations.