Nova Scotia’s presumed consent law for organ donation takes effect

Nova Scotia’s new Human Organ and Tissue Donation Act is officially in effect Monday.

The goal is to allow more residents to donate their organs at their time of death through presumed or “deemed consent.”

The new model makes Nova Scotia the first jurisdiction in North America to operate under such legislation.

“When you think about it, the opportunity to transform part of the healthcare system just plain and simple doesn’t come along that often,” said Dr. Stephen Beed, the Medical Director of the Nova Scotia Organ and Tissue Donation Program. “This is transformational change and I have every reason to believe that it’s going to be a different system that’s also a better system.”

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Now, you have the option to register your donation decision. You can completely opt-out or register to donate some or all of your organs and tissues. Your donation decision is recorded in the Health Card Registry and displayed on the front of your Health Card.

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If you don’t register, you will be seen as having consented to complete organ and tissue donation after death.

“I really do think we’re going to be providing better end-of-life care for our potential donors and their families,” said Dr. Beed.

“We will end up having more organs that can be transplanted for recipients and more tissues for those who are awaiting tissue transplants.”

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Dr. Beed says the new opt-out system could see donations rise by as much as 30 to 50 per cent within five years, which he calls a “big deal.”

“It’s an infrequent opportunity because of medical issues related to the process, so we can’t afford to miss a single donor,” he says.

“If we have 4,000 or 5,000 people dying per year, the number that would actually go on to donate is in the 20 region, so this is important to understand. If we miss a single donor, we’ve missed five per cent of that potential.”

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Because it’s a first, Dr. Beed says donation programs across Canada will be following Nova Scotia’s progress very closely.

“We’re studying the system as it evolves, so we will have some lessons to teach our colleagues across the country and maybe even across the world.”

The province first passed the law in April 2019. It takes effect today after more than 18 months of planning, public education and training for health-care workers.

There are several exclusions to the new law.

People who are under 19 years old, those without decision-making capacity and those who have lived in the province for less than a year, are exempt from deemed consent.

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Beed says Nova Scotians are largely supportive of organ donation according to NSHA’s surveys.

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According to the government’s website, when considering organs and tissues — such as skin, bone, tendons, heart valves and corneas — one donor can save or improve the lives of over 80 people.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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