Organ and tissue donation can feel like a heavy topic to discuss, or even to think about, especially during an already challenging time in our lives — but it’s important to know the facts. For instance, you might be surprised to hear that during your lifetime, you are five times more likely to need an organ transplant than to donate one.
Those waiting to receive transplants have been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has paused many transplant surgeries and caused a reduction in organ and tissue donations overall.
Deciding whether or not to become an organ and tissue donor is a completely personal choice.
Here are 10 things to know before deciding what’s right for you:
1. More than 1,600 Canadians are added to organ donation wait lists every year, and every three days someone dies while waiting for a transplant.
2. One donor can benefit more than 75 people and save up to eight lives. Organs and tissue that can be donated include the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas, small intestines, eyes, bone, skin and heart valves.
3. 90% of Canadians support organ and tissue donation but less than 20% have registered as donors.
4. Paper donor cards are no longer in use. If you decide to be a donor, you must take two minutes to register online or in person wherever you renew your health card. By formally registering, you ensure that your confidential decision is recorded with the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care and can be made available to your loved ones at the right time.
5. There is potential to be a donor at any age. The oldest organ donor was over 90 years old and the oldest tissue donor was over 100 years old.
6. People with serious illnesses can also be organ and/or tissue donors.
7. Organ and tissue donation does not impact funeral plans — an open casket funeral is still possible for organ donors.
8. If you decide to be an organ donor, your family members will be asked to reaffirm your choice, so it’s important to share your wishes with loved ones when you are healthy. Less than half of families agree to donation if they are unaware of their loved one’s decision, but the statistic rises to over 90% when the decision was known ahead of time.
9. Once a donor’s family gives their consent, the donation process happens quickly — in about 24 hours. Medical tests determine which organs and tissues are suitable for transplant before they are matched with people on the transplant wait list. Surgery then takes place in an operating room at a hospital, and the donor’s family is provided with general information about the recipients.
10. There are no costs involved with being a donor. Only you can know if registering to become a donor is the right choice for you.
Medisys supported by TELUS Health has no position on organ donation — it’s a deeply personal decision. If you’re having difficulty with this decision, it may be helpful to speak to your trusted physician and/ or your religious leader about the pros and cons of organ donation.