Nova Scotia’s presumed consent organ donation law takes effect


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On Jan. 18, 2021, Nova Scotia became the first Canadian province to pass the new Human Organ and Tissue Donation Act

The goal of this new law is to allow more (qualifying) residents to donate their organs to those in need, by way of presumed or deemed consent. 

Any adult over 19 years old who has been a resident of Nova Scotia for over a year, and has decision-making capacity will now qualify automatically to be an organ donor. Families will nonetheless still have the final say at the patient’s bedside.

People will continue to have the option to opt-out, however, if they so desire. So far, only one per cent of the population have participated in this option, and is expected by experts to rise to no more than four to five per cent moving forward. 

According to the Nova Scotian government website, considering both organs and tissue – i.e. skin, bone, tendons, heart valves, etc., a single donor can either save or improve the lives of approximately 80 different people. 

This law will have a drastic impact on the number of organ donors available to those in need. Nova Scotia’s tissue bank director expects the department could see more than double the current number of donations, now that the law is in effect. 

This is such a positive adjustment, considering there are well over 4,500 people currently waiting for organ or tissue donations in Canada alone. Over 260 of those people will die a year; lives that could be easily saved if they had a viable donor.

Currently, in Ontario, you need to register yourself if you wish to donate any or all of your organs, once you become a legal adult. By leaving this option up to individuals, many people who might be willing to consider becoming a donor do not register, either because they are unaware of the option, or simply never get around to it (I will admit I was part of the latter group for a considerably shameful amount of time – — I am registered now). 

Ontario and other provinces should look to Nova Scotia as an example of creating a simple, yet immediate reform to the medical field; one that would definitely make an impact on, and even save countless lives. 

Many provinces will be closely monitoring the progression of this new law, in consideration of taking it on themselves. If this legislation is passed all over Canada, it could save an unimaginable number of lives.

Unfortunately, there are still many misunderstandings when it comes to the process of organ donation that may leave some people hesitatingnt to consider becomeing donors themselves. 

So, let’s dispel a few of these myths, shall we?

Many people are concerned that if they become an organ donor, their body will appear deformed, and they will be unable to have an open casket at their funeral. This is not the case. 

Medical professionals insist that the priority always remains with the patient/donor. Extractions of organs and tissue are done with the utmost caution and care to preserve the appearance of the donor so that once dressed, there is no indication of what procedure took place on the physical body. 

So, people can become organ donors once they are adults, but what about an age limit? Fortunately, there are no age restrictions when it comes to being a donor. The oldest Canadian organ donor was 92!

One of the more concerning myths surrounding organ donations is that some believe if they become a registered organ/tissue donor, doctors will not try as hard to save their lives if they are in danger of passing. This is extremely false and dangerously misleading. 

When a person is admitted to a hospital with life-threatening conditions, they are placed under the care of doctors who specialize in their unique conditions. These doctors take their jobs very seriously, and their only focus is to save the lives of their patients. 

Similarly, the doctors dealing with the at-risk patient do not even have access to documentation confirming whether or not the person is a registered donor. This only comes to light after all life-saving methods have been attempted, and the patient is confirmed to not survive. Organ donor registration records are confidential, so there is no way doctors would be able to prioritize any other life over that of the patient they are dealing with. 

See this useful article for more answers to questions surrounding organ donations. 

Ultimately, Nova Scotia has taken an incredibly useful step towards saving and improving the lives of many of its residents by passing this law. The number of lives that could be positively impacted by just one person registering as a donor is something worth considering. 

On a final note, consider what you would want someone to do for you if your life required saving by way of transplant. Once we are gone, we have no need for our physical bodies. Why shouldn’t we show even the slightest compassion for others, and give what is no longer ours, to save a life?
REGISTER. It only takes two minutes to save a life.

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