A Complete Guide on Organ Donation in Canada
You don’t have to be a superhero or firefighter to save lives – it can be as simple as becoming a registered organ donor. In fact, by becoming a registered organ donor, you can save the lives of up to 8 people!  This guide will go over what organ donation is, the process, how to donate, and some frequently asked questions.
- What is organ donation?
- Organ donation process
i. The donor’s process
ii. The recipient’s process
- Why you should become an organ donor
- How to become an organ donor
i. Alberta, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut
ii. British Columbia
iv. New Brunswick
v. Newfoundland and Labrador
vi. Nova Scotia
viii. Prince Edward Island
- Frequently Asked Questions
i. How old do I have to be?
ii. How healthy do I have to be?
iii. What organs/tissues can be donated?
iv. Can I donate while I’m still alive?
v. Will I be paid for donating an organ?
vi. Will the surgery cost me money?
vii. Will organ donation after death mean I can’t have an open-casket funeral?
What is organ donation?
Organ donation is the process of surgically removing an organ/tissue from one person (the organ donor) and placing it into another person (the recipient) . It often happens because the recipient’s organ has failed or been damaged by disease or injury, so the treatment involves replacing the organ. In the case of organ failure, an organ transplant is often the only possible treatment .
Organ donation process
Now let’s go over how the organ donation process works. 
The donor’s side:
- A donor must first be declared dead and confirmed as an organ donor before the donation process.
- Next, the individual’s organs are assessed by a medical team to see which organs are undamaged and suitable for transplants.
- The medical team will then start that conversation with the family about possible donation. The family still has final say on whether organs can be donated, so if the family believes the individual no longer wants to donate their organs, the medical team cannot proceed forward with the donation process. This rare situation most often occurs when the family was not aware that the donor has consented to organ donation, so it’s important to discuss with your family if you are considering becoming a donor.
- Once the family has been informed, the surgical team takes the organ donor to the operating room to have the organs removed for donation. This must occur as soon as possible, as organs only last a few hours outside the body before they start to degrade. They follow a procedure to package the organ properly and label it.
- The organ is then delivered to the transplant center, where it’s prepared to be implanted into the recipient. Organs are usually allocated within the same province first, but can be offered more broadly if needed as long as they can still be delivered in time before the organ starts degrading.
The recipient’s side:
- When a person is in need of an organ, their name is added to the National Organ Waitlist, which is operated by Canadian Blood Services. The position on the list is determined by the individual’s condition’s severity, so those who need an organ more urgently are moved to the top of the list.
- The patient is encouraged to always keep their cellphones on them so they can be notified right away when there has been a donor matched to them. Donors and recipients get matched based on blood type, and how severe the illness is.
- Once notified, the patient must come to the hospital for the transplant as soon as possible.
- The patient receives the transplantation surgery and may spend time in intensive care or intermediate care.
- The patient’s medical team
Why you should become an organ donor
There are many reasons to become an organ donor. Here are just a few:
- In Canada, 250 people die every year waiting for an organ transplant because there are not enough registered organ donors .
- With Canada’s aging population, the need for organs and tissues is increasing , so we need more registered organ donors now than ever before.
- Most organ donations come from deceased donors, but less than 2% of them die in a way that enables them to be donors . By increasing the number of donors, there’s a greater chance that someone in need of an organ/tissues will be able to find a match.
- In Canada, you are more likely to need a transplant at some point in your life than to be a donor! 
- Organ donation is an opportunity to help people. One donor can benefit more than 75 people and save up to 8 lives 
- Registering as an organ donor can be a very rewarding and positive experience. You will have the ability to give someone the gift of life!
How to become an organ donor in Canada
Becoming an organ donor takes just five minutes. Here’s how to become an organ donor in each province:
Remember to tell your family about your wishes to become an organ donor. Family members will feel better about this decision if they know your wishes in advance. Also remember to keep your card/form indicating that you’re an organ donor in your wallet.
Alberta, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut
- Sign up to be an organ and/or tissue donor on myhealth.alberta.ca
- Access the online Organ and Tissue Donation Registry to record your choices about organ and/or tissue donation, or visit a Registry Agent office to register, or sign the back of your health card
- Have your BC Personal Health Number (PHN) ready. You will need this to register or verify your decision
- Verify whether or not you are already registered
- Register online using the electronic form (https://register.transplant.bc.ca/)
- Have a valid Manitoba Personal Health Information Number (PHIN)
- Register your intent online through signupforlife.ca
- You must register even if you have a donor card. A signed donor card is not recorded in the Manitoba Health database.
- Indicate your intent to be a donor by checking the appropriate box on your Medicare change request/replacement/renewal form which is available at the Service New Brunswick website or by calling 1-888-762-8600
- Medicare staff will update your request to ensure your intent to donate is noted.
- New Medicare cards will have your wishes about donation clearly displaced on the card.
- Indicate your intent to donate organ and/or tissues by completing your Medical Care Plan (MCP) application or renewal form.
- The word “ORGAN DONOR” will appear on your MCP card, indicating your intent to donate after death.
- Download the Organ and Tissue Donation Form
- Fill in the form and sign it.
- Mail or fax the form to MSI
- Mail: MSI Registry and Enquiry
P.O. Box 500
- Fax: 902-481-3160
- Have your health card number ready
- Click “register or check now” to be taken to the Service Ontario page to register your donation.
- After you register you will receive a confirmation letter.
- To register intention to become an organ donor, complete the Intent to Donate form and mail it to:
126 Douses Road
PO Box 3000
Montague, PE C0A 1R0
- OR you can register online with your eight-digit Personal Health Number
- Enter your decision in Registre des Consentements au don d’organes et de Tissus by completing the consent form.
- You can get the consent form online, or by calling the RAQM or by using the form sent by the RAQM with the notice of renewal of your health insurance card.
- Once you have completed the form, you must send it to the RAQM, which will register your consent in the Organ and Tissue Donation Consent Registry.
- You will receive a sticker indicating consent to be put on your health insurance card.
- Get an organ and tissue donor sticker and Intention to Donate form by calling eHealth Sasketchewan at 1-800-667-7551
- Put the sticker on your Saskatchewan Health Card
- Fill out the Intention to Donate form
- Download and print the Organ Donor Registration Form
- Complete the form and mail it to Yukon Health Care Insurance Plan (H-2), Box 2703, Whitehorse, YT Y1A 2C6 or drop it off at the office on the 4th Floor of the Financial Plaza building at 204 Lambert St., Whitehorse, Yukon.
- Donors will receive a new updated sticker for their healthcare cards indicating their donor status.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How old do I have to be?
Anyone can be a donor if they’re 16 or older. In Canada, the oldest person who donated an organ was 92. 
2. How healthy do I have to be?
If you’re considering becoming an organ donor, you should register whether you believe you are fit to be an organ donor or not. All registered donors will then be evaluated by doctors to determine whether the donation is possible.
3. Which organs/tissues can be donated?
You can donate your heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas, small intestines, eyes, bone, skin, and heart valves. 
4. Can I donate while I’m still alive?
Yes, but becoming a live organ donor is an entirely different process. Learn more about the process here. You can also donate blood while alive. Learn more about donating blood here.
5. Will I be paid for donating an organ?
No. This is illegal.
6. Will the surgery cost me money?
There are no costs to the donor’s family for organ and tissue donation.
7. Will organ donation after death mean I can’t have an open-casket funeral?
Yes, you can. The surgeons give organ donation surgery just as much respect and care as they do all other surgeries, not only to protect the donor’s body, but make the organ transplant more successful. Incisions are stitched up (and often covered by clothing).  Additionally, for an open-casket funeral, the body is given to the funeral home for preparation according to the wishes of the donor or family, so they can take restorative measures if needed. 
Organ donation is a simple process and could save the lives of many people. Surveys conducted by Canadian Transplant Society showed that 90% of Canadians support organ donation but only 20% plan to donate . This may be due to misinformation about the process or the uncomfortable topic of death. Hopefully by reading this guide you feel more informed about the process and are considering donating!