Organ and Tissue Donation
Why Should I Donate?
Organ and tissue donation is essential to the health and well-being of many Islanders. There are waiting lists for Islanders requiring tissue and organs.
Organs such as kidneys, the heart, lungs, liver, pancreas and small bowel may be transplanted. Many organs are received from donors who have died, but a living person can also give a kidney, or a portion of the liver or lung.
Corneas, sclera, skin, heart valves, bone, cartilage, tendons and ligaments can also be donated. Donated tissue can be used to restore sight, cover eye injuries, treat critically burned patients, repair heart defects and restore mobility.
- As an organ donor, you can save as many as eight lives, and as a tissue donor, you can help as many as 50 others.
- In 2006, there was a Canada-wide shortage of life-saving skin for burn victims.
- Patients benefited from a 25% increase in the number of organ transplants performed in Atlantic Canada in 2006.
- Donated tissues are used every day in operating rooms in Prince Edward Island.
- Organ and tissue donation can help grieving families find comfort in knowing some good has come from their tragic situation.
Many donor families find comfort in helping their loved one’s final wishes be fulfilled. At a time of shock and grief, they can take comfort in knowing that their loved one’s organs and tissues saved or improved the lives of others, and that some good came of their personal tragedy.
How Do I Donate?
Any person 16 years of age or over who understands the nature and consequences of donation can consent to be an organ or tissue donor. You can specify which organs or tissues you wish to donate.
If you decide that you want to donate your organs or tissue after death, it is important to inform your family. After death, a tissue specialist will ask your next of kin to participate in a donor screening process. The questions that your family will be asked are similar to those asked when you donate blood and include questions about your medical history, sexual history, any past illegal drug use and other personal inquiries. When your family knows and respects your wish to be a donor, they will feel more comfortable with this process. If your next of kin is unaware of your intent to donate, there may be a hesitation to participate and consent to the screening questionnaire. Without the completion of the screening, the organ and tissue retrieval will not occur. It is important that all tissues and organs are safe for recipients.
You may express your wish to donate organs or tissues verbally or in writing by completing a health care directive. A Health Care Directive is a legal document describing the amount and type of health care you want should you become incapable of making treatment decisions.
You can change your mind or withdraw your consent at any time. Make sure you inform your family if your wishes change.
When a person of any age dies without formally consenting to be an organ or tissue donor, the person’s next of kin can consent on the person’s behalf.
A child under the age of 16 years and the child’s parents or guardians together can consent to the donation of organs or tissue from the child while living.
What Else Can I do?
A person who is 16 years of age or over may also consent to the use of his or her body for medical education or scientific research. This can be arranged through Dalhousie University in Halifax Nova Scotia.
Canadian Blood Services has been working with the provinces to help secure Canada’s Organ and Tissue supply. You can join their mission to ‘speak up’ and advocate for organ and tissue donation. You can find out how you can help by visiting their website at http://speakup.dialoguecircles.com/kitchen or www.blood.ca/speakup.