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Frequently Asked Questions

The Importance of Donating

Why should I donate my organs and tissues?

Your decision to become an organ and tissue donor can help save or significantly improve the lives of many people. Today, more than 120 Nova Scotians are waiting for an organ transplant while countless others are waiting for a tissue transplant.

How many lives are impacted by donation?

Organ donation from one person can save the lives of up to eight people. A single tissue donor can improve the lives of up to 40 people.

Who Can Donate

Who can be a donor?

Anyone has the potential to be an organ donor. Anyone 80 years and younger is a potential tissue donor. Previous health history is important. As with donating blood, potential organ and tissue donors are medically screened to prevent the transmission of disease to recipients.

If I have a serious medical condition, can I still donate?

Yes, you can. Some tissues and organs can be donated even if the donor has a serious medical condition. Medical suitability criteria change as new safety information becomes available. However, all organs and tissues are tested and evaluated against current standards to ensure they are suitable for donation. Organs and tissues not suitable for transplant are not recovered. Not all recovered organs and tissues can be transplanted.

Becoming a Donor

How do I register my wish to become an organ and tissue donor?

Nova Scotians can register as an organ and tissue donor by signing up on their provincial Health Card. Simply download the Organ & Tissue Donation Form (PDF, 85k), fill it out and sign it, and fax or mail it back to MSI. Alternatively, you can call MSI at 496-7008 in HRM or toll-free at 1-800-563-8880 and they will send you the form by mail or fax.

Should I tell my family my donation wishes?

Yes. It is very important to talk to your family so they understand your wish to be an organ and tissue donor. Donation can take place only if the donor’s family has given consent at the time of death.

What if I change my mind about organ and tissue donation?

If you want to change your donor status, contact MSI by calling 496-7008 in HRM or toll-free at 1-800-563-8880, and talk to your family so they understand your wishes.

Organ and Tissue Donation

What organs and tissues can be donated?

Organs such as kidneys, the heart, lungs, liver, pancreas and small bowel can be donated, and tissues such as corneas, sclera (the white outer covering of the eye), skin, heart valves, bone, veins, cartilage, tendons and ligaments can be donated.

Can I choose which organs and tissues I want to donate upon my death?

Yes. You may choose to donate all organs and tissues, or only specific organs and tissues. In Nova Scotia, you indicate your decision on your Health Card.

What do Donor 1 and Donor 2 mean on my Health Card?

On provincial health cards, there are two different donor classifications – Donor 1 and Donor 2. Donor 1 indicates the person has decided to donate all their organs and tissues while Donor 2 indicates he or she wishes to donate specific organs and tissues.

Can I be an organ and tissue donor and also donate my body to medical science?

No. You cannot be an organ donor if you have chosen to donate your body to medical science. However, you may be eligible to donate corneas.

Can I choose who should receive my organs and tissues when I die?

No. Donated organs and tissues are transplanted to individual recipients based on need, blood type, genetic match and other criteria. A recipient can be designated only through living donation.

Is there a cost to my family if I choose to be a donor?

In Canada, organ and tissue donation is covered by the healthcare system. There are no extra costs to the family for medical procedures related to organ and tissue donation. The family is still responsible for funeral arrangements and costs associated with burial.

Does organ or tissue recovery interfere with funeral arrangements?

Donation may delay funeral arrangements for up to 24 hours. An open-casket funeral and cremation are still possible.

Living Donors

Can living people donate organs?

Yes. The rate of live donation is increasing. Kidney donation is the most common procedure.

Who can be a living organ donor?

In Nova Scotia, you must be 19 years of age or older to be a living donor. Living organ donation may be an option for a healthy adult who has a family member in need of a kidney, liver or lung transplant. With living donation, a kidney or portion of the liver or lung is removed from the donor and transplanted into the patient in need of a new organ.

The Program

What is Legacy of Life?

Legacy of Life is Nova Scotia’s provincial organ and tissue donation program. Created in the fall of 2006, the program’s goal is to ensure all Nova Scotians know about organ and tissue donation, and choose to donate. For more information on the Legacy of Life Program, call (902) 424-7916 or email corningc@gov.ns.ca.

Where is Nova Scotia’s Multi-Organ Transplant Program located?

The Multi-Organ Transplant Program is located at the Victoria General Hospital site of the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax. The program provides transplantation services for patients from all four Atlantic Provinces.

Do transplants work? How often are they successful?

Organ transplants save lives. Tissue transplants enhance the quality of life. Generally, transplantation success rates are excellent – between 80 and 95 per cent of patients are doing well one year after their transplant. Outcomes continue to improve each year, so more and more transplant patients are living enhanced, productive lives. (source: Canadian Association of Transplantation Website 2007.)