The law surrounding organ and tissue donation (Human Organ and Tissue Donation Act) has changed in Nova Scotia. The new act makes it possible for more Nova Scotians to donate their organs and tissues. Learn more at www.novascotia.ca/organtissuedonation.
About Legacy of Life
- Raise public awareness of the importance of organ and tissue donation; and
- Encourage people to provide a legacy of life by signing up to be a donor
- Ensure all families are offered the option of organ and tissue donation
- Provide safe organs and tissues for transplant
- Promote organ and tissue donation to health care professionals and the general public.
The Importance of Donation
One organ donor can save up to eight lives and improve the lives of up to 75 people through tissue donation. For those suffering from organ failure, severe burns, and heart failure, it is the difference between life and death. For those awaiting a much needed tissue graft, it can be the difference between being able to live the life you want to live the life you have.
You are six times more likely to need an organ transplant than to become an organ donor. Donation rates have increased across Canada but transplant waitlists continue to expand. It is our goal to ensure every potential donation opportunity is identified.
The impact of donation is far reaching. From giving recipients a better quality of life, it is also a gift of comfort to grieving families during tragic times and provides a great deal of hope to those who are waiting for a transplant.
Everyone has the potential to be an organ donor.
You do not need to worry about whether your medical history and health status would prevent you from donating. If and when the opportunity for donation arises, our health care professionals will consult with your family or support person and review your information to determine the safety of your organs and tissues for transplant.
As with donating blood, potential organ and tissue donors are medically screened to ensure the safety of organs and tissues for tranplant recipients.
The law has changed surrounding organ and tissue donation (Human Organ and Tissue Donation Act). The change will help increase the identification of more Nova Scotians who may be eligible to become donors. Learn more.
In Nova Scotia, organ donation from a deceased person is possible in only two circumstances: after brain death (neurological death) and after cardiocirculatory death. In some cases, patients who plan to receive Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) may also donate their organs.
Living persons may also choose to help others by donating one of their kidneys or part of their liver.
Organ Donation After Death
Neurological Determination of Death (Brain Death) – with this type of organ donation, doctors have confirmed there is severe and permanent injury resulting in no activity of the brain. Patients are at this point, are legally dead. Patients who are determined to have brain death are able to donate because their organs, including their heart and lungs, continue to function due to the machines and medicines that the ICU team give them.
- Small bowel
Donation after Circulatory Death – with this type of donation, the donor has a severe injury or illness. Meaningful recovery from this injury or illness is very unlikely, or the ongoing care being provided is not in keeping with the wishes of the patient. A discussion with the medical team and the family leads to a plan to switch to comfort care, allowing the patient to die naturally. In order to provide safe organs for transplant, patients must die in a timeframe that will prevent damage from happening to the organ. This is a very time sensitive process. There may be times when a patient does not die in a timeframe that enables a safe organ transplant but may enable safe tissue transplants.
The following organs can be donated:
Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) and Donation
Tissue recovery will occur within 24 hours of death.
The following tissues can be donated:
- Eye tissue: can offer sight restoration;
- Bone and ligaments: can help patients having orthopedic surgery, dental surgery, and some cancer patients;
- Heart valves
- Skin: can save a burn patient
Living Organ Donation
- Patient & Family Guide: Giving a Kidney (.pdf)
- Guide à l’intention des patients et des familles: Le don d’un rein (.pdf)
Cultural and Religious Perspectives
Donating Your Body or Brain to Science
You can be an organ and/or tissue donor and donate your brain tissue to the Maritime Brain Bank. To learn more, please visit their website. If you wish to donate your body to science, you cannot be an organ donor, however, you may be eligible to donate corneas. If you are interested in learning more about donating your body to science please visit the Dalhousie Human Body Donation Program's website.
How to Register
Renew your Health Card or change a donation decision:
Donor Family Support
- Phone call following organ and/or tissue recovery
- Follow up letters from the Family Support Liaison (at three, six and 12 months)
- Grief and bereavement resources
- Donor Family Experience survey (satisfaction survey)
- Invitation to Gift of Life Celebration (donor recognition ceremony)
- Correspondence from transplant recipients (if/when received). Please note that changes to the organ and tissue legislation will impact recipient and family contact. Read details below for more information.
Family Support Liaison:
- Ten things to know about grief (.pdf)
- Grief after suicide (.pdf)
- Talking to children about death and grief : information for parents and caregivers (.pdf)
- Helping Teens Cope with Dying, Death and Grief (.pdf)
- Life is a journey (.pdf)
- Sur le chemin de la vie (.pdf)
- Grief: Coping with Challenges (.pdf)
- Deuil : surmonter les difficultés
Give and Receive News
Family Support Liaison:
Donor Family Stories
- Remembering Mandi: Clinical therapist Karen Belliveau shares family experience with donation through heartfelt letter
- A lasting gift: Quality and patient safety leader Denice Klavano says late son’s decision to donate is true ‘legacy to how he lived’
National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week (NOTDAW)
Gift of Life Ceremony
For patients on a waiting list
Currently, there are approximately 150 to 200 people in Nova Scotia awaiting a transplant that will save and improve the quality of life for them and their loved ones.
With the recent announcement of changes to legislation and generosity of registered donors across the province, more Nova Scotians can expect to receive a life changing call sooner
Management of the Waiting List and Allocation Criteria
Each patient is evaluated in terms of his/her medical condition and need. The organ allocation and recipient work up process is very complex and completed by specialized teams of physicians, nurses and multidisciplinary staff. In Nova Scotia, the Multi Organ Transplant Program (MOTP) provides transplant services for all of Atlantic Canada. For more information, please visit the Multi Organ Transplant website at www.motpatlantic.ca.
For transplant recipients
Every year in Nova Scotia, approximately 125 people receive a lifesaving or life enhancing transplant. Through the gift of donation, their lives and those of their families and friends are improved for years to come.