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
Make the Decision, Share Your Life. Cornea Donation Information, Palliative Care Services (.pdf)
Living Organ Donation
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: