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Sask. man says late husband's tissue donation was denied after question regarding sexual orientation


A Dalmeny, Sask. man says his dying husband's wish to donate his tissue was denied following an inquiry concerning his sexual orientation.

Merrill Donkin died from liver cancer on Aug. 30 after living with the illness for six months, according to his husband Dwayne Belcourt.

“It went very, very fast. He tried chemo. It didn't do it for him, made him sicker,” Belcourt said

Donkin was a registered tissue donor who wanted to donate his tissues.

“I got a call … saying that Merrill was a good candidate,” said Belcourt.

However, Belcourt later received a call from the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA).

“(They asked) did Merill have intimate relationships with another man in the last five years,” said Belcourt.

“We have been married since April and been together for 26 years, so yes, he's had sexual relationships with a man.”

After Belcourt answered the question, he was told Donkin’s tissues would be disqualified.

“I think it should be changed as it's discriminatory for one thing,” said Belcourt. “I asked her, do you ask that question to heterosexuals and she said no.”

In an emailed statement, the head of the SHA's organ donation program Dr. Alastair Wall said sexual orientation alone would never be a reason to defer non-ocular organ donation. and says the screening process takes a patient's entire clinical profile into account.

"If a Saskatchewan patient is identified as a potential donor for organs, they will be subject to individual assessments by virtue of the organ they are donating, which may entail more detailed screening," Wall said.

"Risk assessments are then based on the data points within the clinical profile of the donor and the recipient."

The director of the program, Dr. Vikas Sharma, said the SHA follows Health Canada guidelines when it comes to screening, which requires questions regarding whether a donor is a man who has had sex with other men.

"While the SHA is aware that Health Canada is reviewing these guidelines, the transplant program will continue to base its screening protocols on current federal guidelines," Sharma said.

CTV News has reached out to Health Canada but has not yet heard back.

OUTSaskatoon executive director Krystal Nieckar says the policy amounts to discrimination towards gay people.

“They're going to chalk it up to be a safety factor and we need to do all these tests,” said Nieckar.

“It does come down to the fact that this person was with another man."

In April, Health Canada approved Canadian Blood Services’ submission to eliminate the three-month donor deferral period for gay and bisexual men as well as others in the LGBTQ2S+ community.

The situation has left Belcourt turned off from donating his tissues, and his blood. 

“They want our blood but we're not at the supermarket where you get to pick and choose what you want to get. Either you take us all or none,” he said. Top Stories

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