Government Introduces Legislation to Increase Organ and Tissue Donation

On April 2, in light of the countless lives saved by organ and tissue donation, the Nova Scotian government passed the Human Organ and Tissue Donation Act. The act makes it possible for all Nova Scotians to donate their organs and tissue, unless they opt out.

The Act gives hope to patients waiting for a transplant, who will now have a better chance of getting one sooner no matter where they live in Nova Scotia due to the increased availability of organs and tissue.

“Save lives and make a lasting difference”

Under the new legislation, the first of its kind in North America, everyone is presumed to be a potential donor unless they indicate otherwise, and will be automatically referred to donation programs to determine if they are suitable candidates.

“This is about doing our best for Nova Scotians waiting for life-saving transplants,” said Premier Stephen McNeil. “We know there is support for organ and tissue donation in our province and this legislation is another step in ensuring there are more potential donors who could save lives and make a lasting difference.”

Like under the old system, families will be consulted to ensure their loved ones’ wishes are respected regarding organ or tissue donation, so it is still important for everyone to make their wishes clear to their families.

“I wouldn’t be here without the people who donated and for that I am forever grateful”

For Cindy Ryan, the miracles organ and tissue donation can provide is something she experienced first hand. The Westville, Pictou Co. resident went into a coma after a virus attacked her liver. Her family was informed that without a liver transplant, she would only have four weeks to live.

“I always supported organ and tissue donation but never thought I’d be a recipient myself someday,” said Ms. Ryan. “You can’t imagine what it feels like to receive this wonderful gift until it happens to you. I wouldn’t be here without the people who donated and for that I am forever grateful.”

Ms. Ryan’s experience highlights the lifesaving potential of organ and tissue donations. Fortunately, she received her first transplant in 2013, and a second one in 2015 after complications.  

“This legislation will help more patients get the good news they’ve been waiting for”

Nova Scotians without decision-making capacity, including minors under the age of 19 will require a parent, guardian or substitute decision-maker to opt them in for them to be considered donors.

Under the old system, which will be in place for a least a year to allow for ample time for planning and public education, Nova Scotians had to indicate whether they want to receive or renew their health cards.

“Organ and tissue donation is a medical miracle and can give comfort to families who see something positive from a loved one’s death,” said Dr. Stephen Beed, medical director, Legacy of Life and critical care organ donation. “This legislation will help more patients get the good news they’ve been waiting for.”

21 life-changing Nova Scotians became organ donors in 2018, donating 110 tissues like corneas and heart valves. Currently, 110 Nova Scotians are waiting for organ transplants.

For more information about the Human Organ and Tissue Donation Act, visit