Government Introduces Legislation to Increase Organ and Tissue Donation

Organ and tissue donation saves lives and gives hope to those waiting for life-saving transplants.

The Human Organ and Tissue Donation Act, introduced today, April 2, will make it possible for all Nova Scotians to donate their organs and tissue, unless they opt out. Nova Scotia would be the first jurisdiction in North America to have such legislation.

“This is about doing our best for Nova Scotians waiting for life-saving transplants,” said Premier Stephen McNeil. “We know there is support for organ and tissue donation in our province and this legislation is another step in ensuring there are more potential donors who could save lives and make a lasting difference.”

Under the new legislation, everyone is presumed to be a potential donor and will be automatically referred to donation programs to determine if they are suitable candidates. This gives patients waiting for a transplant a better chance of getting one sooner, no matter where they live in Nova Scotia, by increasing available organs and tissue.

Currently, Nova Scotians indicate whether they want to be donors when they receive or renew their health cards.

Cindy Ryan of Westville, Pictou Co., knows first-hand the importance of donation. After a virus attacked her liver, she went into a coma and her family was told that without a liver transplant, she would only have four weeks to live. After complications with her first transplant in 2013, she required a second one in 2015.

“I always supported organ and tissue donation but never thought I’d be a recipient myself someday,” said Ms. Ryan. “You can’t imagine what it feels like to receive this wonderful gift until it happens to you. I wouldn’t be here without the people who donated and for that I am forever grateful.”

Families will continue to be consulted about their loved ones’ wishes regarding organ or tissue donation. It is important people make their wishes clear to their families so they are respected.

“Organ and tissue donation is a medical miracle and can give comfort to families who see something positive from a loved one’s death,” said Dr. Stephen Beed, medical director, Legacy of Life and critical care organ donation. “This legislation will help more patients get the good news they’ve been waiting for.”

Those under 19 and those without decision-making capacity will be exempt, and will only be considered donors if a parent, guardian or substitute decision-maker opts them in.

In 2018, 21 Nova Scotians became organ donors and 110 donated tissues like corneas and heart valves. There are 110 Nova Scotians waiting for organ transplants.

The legislation will not take effect for at least a year, to allow ample time for planning and public education and awareness.

For more information about the Human Organ and Tissue Donation Act, visit novascotia.ca/organdonation .