FAQs: National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week
What is National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week?
National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week (NOTDAW) celebrates organ and tissue donation and raises awareness about the critical need for more donors across the country. In 2019, NOTDAW is April 21-27.
When was National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week enacted?
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.
How can Canadians participate in National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week?
Canadians are encouraged to visit organtissuedonation.ca to register as organ and tissue donors during National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week. They are also reminded to have important conversations with loved ones about their organ donation wishes. And to spread the word about the critical need for more donors.
Why do we need an awareness week for organ and tissue donation?
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 for a transplant.
Public opinion data indicates that 90 per cent of Canadians strongly or somewhat approve of organ and tissue donation. Yet only 23 per cent have indicated that they have actually put their names on donation registries.
If so many Canadians support organ donation, why haven’t they registered?
There may be a number of reasons including misinformation about organ donation - some people may simply be uncomfortable or unwilling to talk about death. Not doing so, however, leaves the difficult decision to families who may be unprepared to choose organ donation when the time comes.
Making that important decision to donate is the first step to saving lives. Canadians can register their intent to become a donor by visiting organtissuedonation.ca and signing up to their provincial organ and tissue donation registry. They are also urged to talk to their families about their organ donation wishes.
Apart from building awareness about registering intent to donate, what else is being done to improve the situation for Canadians waiting for a transplant?
Local, provincial and national programs have all contributed to progress in Canada’s organ donation and transplantation system. Provinces that have implemented broad, systemic changes are seeing improved rates of donation and more lives saved.
Some provinces have made great strides in increasing their organ donation rates by introducing donation physician teams in hospitals. These donation teams are trained to identify and refer potential donors, and are there to support families as they make decisions related to donation during difficult times.
What can Canadians do to improve the outlook for those waiting for an organ transplant?
Canadians have a valuable role to play. Canadians are encouraged to join forces with health-care providers, governments and Canadian Blood Services to help us create a day when no one in Canada dies waiting for a transplant.
- Register as organ and tissue donors during National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week.
- Have the important conversation with loved ones about organ donation and one’s wishes.
- Consider living organ donation. Living donation may be possible following a thorough assessment process. Living donation options include donation of a kidney, part of the liver or part of a lung.
- Learn more about organ and tissue donation and register intent, visit organtissuedonation.ca
With continued investment, support and collaboration across the country, a world-class organ donation and transplantation system in Canada is possible.
General questions and answers about organ donation
If I am registered as an organ donor, will doctors still try to save my life?
Yes, organ and tissue donation is considered only after all life-saving efforts have failed and it is certain you will not survive.
Can I be a donor if I am older or have a medical condition?
Anyone can be a potential donor regardless of age, medical condition or sexual orientation. Even individuals with serious illnesses may sometimes be donors. All potential donors are evaluated on an individual, medical, case-by-case basis. The oldest Canadian organ donor was 92 and the oldest tissue donor was 104. Don’t rule yourself out.
Does my religion allow me to be an organ and tissue donor?
Most religions support organ and tissue donation as an act of life saving. If you are unsure, talk to your spiritual advisor.
If I'm not suitable as an organ donor can I still donate my tissue?
Tissue donation is possible for nearly everyone, even when organ donation is not possible.
If I am not able to donate blood, can I become an organ and tissue donor?
Individuals who are not eligible to donate blood may still be considered for organ or tissue donation.
Can I be a living donor?
Living donation may be possible following a thorough assessment process. Living donation options include donation of a kidney, part of the liver or part of a lung.
If I register to donate my organs, is it certain that my organs will be donated upon my death?
Organ donation is possible only when death occurs in hospital. To be eligible for organ donation, a person must be in hospital, on life support and with no hope of recovery. Fewer than two percent of deaths in Canada have the potential for organ donation.
About Canadian Blood Services’ role in organ donation and transplantation
Canadian Blood Services works with the Organ and Tissue Donation & Transplantation community to improve national system performance. 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 interprovincial sharing of organs. The Kidney Paired Donation (KPD) program is a living donation program that looks for compatible transplants created through chains of paired donation from otherwise incompatible pairs. The Highly Sensitized Patient (HSP) program improves chances of a kidney transplant for hard 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.