Changes to organ and tissue donation

Nova Scotia is changing how organ and tissue donation works in the province. The Nova Scotia Human Organ and Tissue Donation Act will make it possible for more Nova Scotians to donate their organs and tissues. The change takes effect on 18 January 2021.

When you consider that 1 donor can save or improve the lives of over 80 people, it’s a change that will change lives.

What the change means

When the change takes effect on 18 January 2021, people who don’t register to be a donor or opt out and are eligible will be seen as having consented to donating their organs and tissues after death. This is referred to as deemed consent.

When they die, those eligible will be automatically referred to the Organ and Tissue Donation Program to determine if they are clinically suitable candidates for donation.

Those who are not eligible for deemed consent include:

  • people 18 or younger
  • people without decision-making capacity
  • people who have lived in Nova Scotia less than 12 months

A person who is not eligible for deemed consent may still be able to be a donor if they, or someone on their behalf, consents to donation. For example, Nova Scotians 16 and over can indicate their wish to be a donor through their Health Card renewal process.

Why the law is changing

Organ and tissue donation saves lives, and gives hope to those waiting for life-saving and life-enhancing transplants. One donor can save or improve the lives of over 80 people.

Donated organs – such as heart, liver, kidneys and lungs – save the lives of those who need them.

Donated tissues – such as skin, bone, tendons, heart valves and corneas – can restore sight and mobility, help people recover from cancer surgery, and save the lives of burn patients and those who are critically ill with heart disease.

This change will help Nova Scotians waiting for a transplant get one sooner by increasing organ and tissue donation. It’s a change that will change lives.

It’s your choice

You can:

  • register your decision to be a donor and donate all or some of your organs and tissues
  • register your decision to not to be a donor (opt out) and not donate your organs and tissues
  • not register a decision

You can change a previous decision at any time.

Whatever you choose, let the people in your life know your decision to ensure it is honoured. Families will continue to be consulted about their loved ones' wishes regarding organ and tissue donation.

Starting on 18 January 2021, if you don't register your donation decision and you are eligible, you will be seen as having consented to organ and tissue donation after death. If you don't want to donate your organs and tissues, you can opt out before the changes take effect, or any time after.

Find out more about registering and changing your donation decision.

Where to find more information

Legacy of Life is Nova Scotia’s source for information about what organ and tissue donation is and how it works, as well as clear answers to common questions and misunderstandings.