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Social Justice and Community Engagement


The medical marvel of organ and tissue transplantation has spurred new questions about the divisible body and its potential for commodification, dividing the world into unequal populations —receivers and donors. Efforts to foster equilibrium in the supply and demand of transplantable organs have led many to argue for market-based solutions; however the role of privilege has often been made invisible in these discussions, exacerbating pre-existing global inequalities. This paper acknowledges Canadian patient engagement in systems of organ trafficking, and explores the current strategy enacted by Trillium Gift of Life Network (TGLN) to improve organ and tissue donation and transplantation (OTDT) in Ontario and its potential to mitigate transplant tourism. Using an institutional ethnographic approach, the focal point of this research is an examination of the primary texts produced by TGLN. Proposals supporting a legal market for organs are also addressed, including their conflict with the Canadian Medicare system, which was established to prevent the allocation of health care services based on ability to pay. Significantly, TGLN upholds this principle and emphasizes the value in altruistic donation and decommodified approaches to OTDT. If successful, TGLN could lead the way for improving systems of OTDT in Canada. However, concerning themes have been identified which can be understood as barriers to the success of TGLN and thus impede its efforts to increase donation, develop adequate infrastructure with which to effectively procure and allocate organs and tissues, and reduce incidence of Canadian patient participation in transplant tourism.