Nova Scotia Journal

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Nova Scotia assumes people want to donate organs after death

Nova Scotia donate organs after death

Key Takeaways:

  • Nova Scotia ranked first in North America regarding presumed consent for organ donation.
  • Nearly a year after NS became the first jurisdiction in North America to assume residents agree to donate their organs if they die, it is difficult to gauge the program’s popularity.

Everyone in Nova Scotia is presumed to have given consent to having their organs harvested and donated under the Human Organ and Tissue Donation Act. Which went into effect on Jan. 18, unless they opted out of the program while they were alive. In contrast, the rest of the continent requires people to opt-in.

Dr. Stephen Beed, medical director of the province’s organ and tissue donation program, said the COVID-19 pandemic shut down his department between May and June, causing staff to be diverted to other areas of the health system.

“It’s going to be hard to conclude anything in a year like this,” Beed said recently, adding that he suspected the year-end numbers on donation rates were skewed. However, he stated that predicting how much by how much is difficult.

donate organs after death
donate organs after death; Image from The Hill

Nonetheless, he expressed optimism because preliminary referral numbers were “significantly higher” earlier this year. “When we first started this, we had donor numbers in the high teens, and we wanted to get to the mid-to high-twenties,” Beed explained. “I certainly hope that’s where we’re going to be as a new norm, if not higher.”

According to Beed, the most recent figures show that approximately 50,000 people or about 5% of the province’s population have opted out so far. “We do know from Canadian survey data that the percentage of people who say they want to opt-out is greater than 5%,” Beed explained.

He also wondered if more public education is needed, given the number of people who have called the organ donation program to find out if they have to opt out. Many people, he claims, mistakenly believe they are not medically qualified to be donors.

“People are opting out for reasons we believe warrant more education,” he said. “It’s not that they disagree with the approach; it’s that there are some misconceptions out there.”

Source: CBC News

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