The month of April is Organ Donation Month. In the past, we have all had an opportunity to change, and even save, the lives of our family, friends or others through Organ Donation. We did this by recording our decision to be a donor on our Health Care Card. But that has now changed.
Effective January 18, 2021, the Human Organ and Tissue Donation Act came into effect. This new law was introduced by Premier Stephen McNeil in the Legislative Assembly, and received unanimous support from all Members. It will make it possible for more Nova Scotians to donate their organs and tissues at the time of their death. As Premier McNeil stated at the time of introducing the Bill, “This change will help more people get the good news they have been waiting for, and ensure more potential donors have the chance to save and improve lives of others”. Medical research tells us that a single organ donor can save up to 8 lives; a single tissue donor can improve up to 75 lives. There are currently over 100 Nova Scotians waiting for an organ transplant.
Nova Scotians who do not record a decision on their Health Card, and are an eligible donor, will be agreeing to be a donor after death. This is known as “deemed consent”. This consent does not apply to living donation or donation for scientific research. Those who are not eligible for “deemed consent” are people under the age of 19, those without decision-making capacity and those who have lived in Nova Scotia less than 1 year.
It is important to know, however, that individuals, who wish to do so, can change their decision at any time. And as a family, we still have the ability to say NO at the time of death of a family member. There are very clear lines and opportunities that all Nova Scotians need to understand. The Nova Scotia Health Card Registry records consents and refusals respecting donation after death. I encourage all Nova Scotians to become more informed and to visit the website at:
Organ and Tissue transplant has been very much a part of our Nova Scotia Health Care service. The Multi-Organ Transplant Program is based in Halifax, but provides organ transplant services for the 4 Atlantic Provinces. In addition, the Regional Tissue Bank in Halifax is one of the largest centres in Canada. We are now leaders in Canada when it comes to organ and tissue donation legislation. The leadership provided by our medical team here in Nova Scotia, driven by the conviction and compassion of our Premier, Stephen McNeil, gives us as potential donors the opportunity, and the privilege to save and improve the lives of so many in our communities and across the province. Thank-you for your support. I was proud to be part of this legislation.
Karen Casey, MLA