Backgrounder: National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week
National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week (NOTDAW) raises awareness about the critical need for more donors across the country and encourages Canadians to register their decision and to talk to their loved ones about organ donation.
Every year, National Organ and Tissue and Awareness Donation Week is held during the last full week of April.
April 23-29, 2023 | April 21-27, 2024 | April 20-26, 2025
During National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week in April of this year, we will be launching a national organ donation awareness campaign called: LEAVE WELL.
Leave Well speaks to the positivity of leaving a legacy, of choosing to do the right thing at the end of your life. It speaks to the pride in choosing to register to be an organ donor.
Unlike many past and current organ donation campaigns, which rely heavily on donor recipients and their families, the Leave Well campaign would feature images of the regular, do-gooding humans who are registered organ and tissue donors. The hero of this campaign will be the Canadians who choose to register to become an organ donor.
Bill C-202, enacting National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week in Canada was passed unanimously by the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science, and Technology on Feb. 4, 1997. The bill was brought forward by former Liberal Member of Parliament Dan McTeague. The last full week of April was chosen to mark the occasion and to commemorate the death of Stuart Herriott, a toddler killed in a motor vehicle incident in McTeague’s riding of Pickering-Scarborough East. Parents of two-and-a-half-year-old Herriott donated his organs and, in turn, helped to save and improve the lives of four others. McTeague says the intent of the bill was to encourage education and awareness about donation and allow Parliament to take a leadership role in addressing the scarcity of organs and thinking about those who die every year waiting for a transplant.
The reality of donation and transplantation today
Approximately 4,400 Canadians are waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant and many more are waiting for tissue transplants. The sad reality is that on average, 250 Canadians die each year waiting. Public opinion data indicates that 90 per cent of Canadians approve of organ and tissue donation yet only 32 per cent have actually put their names on an organ donation registry. With continued investment, support and collaboration across the country, a world-class organ donation and transplantation system in Canada is possible. Progress is being made. Canadians are encouraged to join forces with health-care providers, governments and Canadian Blood Services to help create a day when no one in Canada dies waiting for a transplant.
90: Percentage of Canadians who polls show support organ and tissue donation.
32: Percentage who have actually registered their decision to be a donor.
8: Number of lives that can be saved by one donor.
75: Number of patients who could receive tissue from one donor.
4400: Number of Canadians awaiting a lifesaving organ transplant.
250: Average number of Canadians who die each year waiting.
6: Number of times more likely you are to need a transplant than become an organ donor.
Canadian Blood Services’ role in organ donation and transplantation
We work with the organ and tissue donation and transplantation community to lead national collaborative work aimed at improving the system in Canada.We do this through the development of leading practices, professional education, public awareness and data analysis and reporting. We also manage clinical programs that support the interprovincial patient waitlist and sharing of organs. The Kidney Paired Donation (KPD) program is a living donation program that looks for compatible kidney transplant opportunities created through chains of paired donation from otherwise incompatible pairs. The Highly Sensitized Patient (HSP) program is a program that improves chances of a kidney transplant for the most difficult to match patients. The National Organ Waitlist (NOW), is a real-time data source listing for the non-renal patients in most critical need throughout Canada. The Canadian Transplant Registry, a national web-based computer program that facilitates the interprovincial sharing of organs and provides real-time access for both transactional data and data for analytics and reporting, supports all programs.