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Organ and tissue donation changing to presumed consent

Nova Scotia is leading the way as the first jurisdiction in North America to move to an opt-out system of organ and tissue donation, from the current opt-in system. 

Organ and tissue donation saves lives, and we know that the majority of Nova Scotians are willing donors who understand this important decision. In some cases, people who would have been willing to donate aren’t able to, because they didn’t actively choose this option, or possibly didn’t know that they had to. Now, all Nova Scotians will be able to donate their organs and tissue under this new legislation, unless they choose to opt out. 

“This is about doing our best for Nova Scotians waiting for life-saving transplants. 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.” – Premier Stephen McNeil 

While Nova Scotia currently has the highest rate of donor registration in Canada, there are still 110 Nova Scotians waiting for an organ transplant, with 21 people being organ donors last year. Now everyone will be presumed to be a potential donor and will be automatically referred to donation programs to determine if they are suitable candidates.

This is a vital change that will help save and transform lives.

The decision a family makes to donate a loved one’s organs can be a difficult one, and rest assured that families will still be consulted regarding their loved one’s wishes. As an example of that, family members may have information that the potential donor had changed their mind; that’s why it’s important that people make their views known. 

Anyone under the age of 19 will be exempt, and a parent or guardian may opt them in. 

Recognizing that these are significant changes to organ donation in Nova Scotia, there will be at least a year long period before the legislation takes effect, which will allow for planning and an education campaign. 

The gift of life to one person through organ donation means the loss of another. Today, we recognize and thank those Nova Scotians who have agreed to be organ donors, and those that will in the future. Giving someone a renewed chance at life is the most important gift we can give.



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