Organ and tissue donation

One donor can save or improve the lives of over 80 people. You can choose to donate all or some of your organs and tissues. Or you can choose not to donate. You can also register your donation decision.

You can choose to donate organs and tissues after death. Whether the donation takes place depends on many things, including if there’s a match with someone waiting for a transplant.

Donation options

You can choose to:

  • donate all of your organs and tissues
  • donate some of your organs and tissues
  • not donate your organs and tissues

Living donation

You need to contact the Kidney Transplant Donation Program if you want to donate a kidney while you're still alive. This is called a living donation.

Registering your donation decision

You can register your decision to donate your organs and tissues after death if you have a Health Card and are 16 or older. If you’re 15 or younger, your parent or legal guardian needs to complete the registration for you.

Your registration options include:

  • registering to be a donor and donate all organs and tissues
  • registering to be a donor and only donate some organs and tissues
  • registering to not be a donor (opt out) and not donate organs and tissues
  • not registering a decision

Canadian Armed Forces and Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) can also register a decision to donate after death. If you’re a member of the Canadian Armed Forces or Royal Canadian Mounted Police, you need to contact MSI Registration and Enquiry to request an Organ and Tissue Donation Form for Canadian Armed Forces and Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Record of consent

After you register, your donation decision is recorded in the Health Card Registry and displayed on the front of your Health Card.

Your Health Card shows if you consent to donate all organs and tissues (DONOR 1) or some organs and tissues (DONOR 2). Starting on 18 January 2021, cards also show if you don’t consent to donate organs and tissues (OPT OUT).

The Health Card Registry keeps a record of your donation decision, including if you didn’t register a decision.

Before any transplant activities take place, health professionals check the registry to see if you registered a decision. Health professionals also meet with your family to review your recorded decision and to see if the family has additional information about your decision.

If you don't register a donation decision

Right now, if you don’t want to donate your organs and tissues, you don’t need to register your decision to opt out. Your family is asked to make a donation decision and sign a consent form.

Starting on 18 January 2021, if you don't register a donation decision and you’re 19 or over, you’re seen as having consented to donate all organs and tissues under the Human Organ and Tissue Donation Act. This is called deemed consent.

Deemed consent doesn’t apply to living donation or to donation for scientific research or education purposes.

Deemed consent also doesn’t apply if:

  • you’re 18 or younger
  • you don’t have the capacity to make decisions, including a decision about donating your organs and tissues
  • you don’t have the capacity to understand that you’re automatically seen as having given your consent, unless you specifically opt out
  • you’re an out-of-province student studying in Nova Scotia
  • you’re an international student studying in Nova Scotia
  • you’re someone who came from out of province to work in Nova Scotia on a temporary basis (including foreign temporary workers)
  • you’re in prison in Nova Scotia
  • you’re a Canadian Armed Forces member posted to Nova Scotia
  • you’re a family member of a Canadian Armed Forces member posted to Nova Scotia
  • you’re a Royal Canadian Mounted Police member posted to Nova Scotia
  • you’re a family member of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police member posted to Nova Scotia

Changing your donation decision

It’s your choice. You can change your donation decision at any time.

Talk to your family, friends and those closest to you

It's important that you discuss your donation decision with your family, friends and those closest to you so they know your wishes. Talking about your decision makes sure that it doesn’t come as a surprise to them. It also helps them support your decision.

Help making a donation decision

Legacy of Life can help you understand what it means to be a donor and how organ and tissue donation works. If you have questions about how donation affects your religious or spiritual practice, you should speak with your spiritual leader.

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  1. 1

    Talk to your family

    Tell your family your donation decision so they can support your wishes.

  2. 2

    Register to be a donor

    If you want to donate all or some of your organs and tissues, you can register your decision to be a donor. Use the Health Card Renewal Form (PDF) if it’s time for you to renew your card. If it’s not time for you to renew your card, use the Organ and Tissue Donation Form (PDF) to register.

  3. 3

    Register to not be a donor (opt out)

    Right now, if you don’t want to donate your organs and tissues, you don’t need to register your decision to opt out.

    If you don’t want to donate your organs and tissues when the legislation changes on 18 January 2021, you can call MSI Registration and Enquiry or opt out online before the changes take effect. Your opt-out decision takes effect on 18 January 2021 and you receive a new Health Card in January that shows you don’t consent to donate organs and tissues.

    Starting on 18 January 2021, if you don’t want to donate your organs and tissues, you need to register your decision to not be a donor (opt out).

  4. 4

    Change your donation decision

    If you want to change your registered donation decision, you need to update your information with the Health Card Registry. If it’s time for you to renew your Health Card, use the Health Card Renewal Form (PDF). If it’s not time for you to renew your card, contact MSI Registration and Enquiry to make a change.