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How to donate your organs

The decision whether to donate one’s organs is never easy to make. 

However, if you have thought about it and you would like to donate your organs after your passing, there are some rules and regulations you have to abide by in order to become a donor.

Federal guidelines for organ donation

In 2007, the federal government passed the Safety of Human Cells, Tissues and Organs for Transplantation Regulations. 

The purpose of this new legislation, according to Health Canada was “to minimize the potential health risks to Canadian recipients resulting from transplantation.”

These new regulations set standards for screening and testing of potential donors in Canada. 

These regulations require the following be done before a person can become a donor:

• Perform a physical exam of the potential donor;

• Get donor information and history;

• Perform tests for certain diseases and disease agents; and

• Make sure the donor is not unsuitable to donate on the basis of exclusionary criteria.

Exclusionary criteria

People who are affected by certain diseases are excluded from being eligible to become a donor. For example, if a person has dementia, is infected with or has a high risk of HIV or has a disease like Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease they are not allowable organ donor candidates. 

Further criteria established excludes: persons with hemophilia who have received clotting factor concentrates, men who have had relations with other men in the last five years, people who have worked in the sex trade in the last five years, people who are currently in prison or jail or were in prison or jail for at least 72 hours in the last year and more.

Note that some exclusion criteria are controversial and may be amended or removed in the future.

Provincial/territorial requirements

If you want to be an organ donor and you are eligible according to federal guidelines, then you have to register with the provincial/territorial government as an organ donor.

Every province and territory has their own registry and their own rules for people registering to be organ donors. You must register with the registry of your province or territory, which is usually housed by your provinces health insurance plan, such as OHIP or Alberta Health.

For example, in Manitoba if you wish to become an organ donor, these are the requirements for registration:

• You must be 18 years old or older;

• You must have a valid Manitoba Personal Health Information Number (PHIN); and

• You must provide your date of birth.

In most provinces the requirements are similar, though sometimes the age requirement for consent can differ. For example, in Ontario the age requirement is 16 years old and up.

Family consent

Even where your wishes may be to donate your organs and you have registered as an organ donor, in many provinces a family member has the right to refuse the organ donation.

If you decide to become a donor, it’s a good idea to speak to your family about your wishes regarding organ donation.

Withdrawing consent

You can withdraw consent to donate your organs at any time, but you must comply with the requirements to withdraw consent. Usually each registry has its own requirements as to how to withdraw consent. Normally, you’ll have to fill out a withdraw consent form and/or also call your health insurance provider to let them know consent for organ donation has been withdrawn.

It may be a good idea to consult with a healthcare lawyer or your doctor as there are many complex issues involved with organ donation, especially in light of the federal guidelines.

Read more:

Organ Donation and Transplantation in Canada

Safety of Human Cells, Tissues and Organs for Transplantation Regulations