The ABCs of organ donation


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The ABCs of organ donation

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  One organ donor can give new life to many people awaiting an organ transplant. Tissue donation can provide life-enhancing and life-saving transplants for many others.

What organs and tissues can be donated?

The diagram below shows what organs and tissues can be donated.

      Frequently asked questions

      Q: How many people are on a waiting list for an organ or tissue transplant?
      A: In Canada, 3,900 people are on waiting lists for transplant operations that could enhance or save their lives. In Quebec, in December 2003, they were 860 on the waiting list for an organ transplant, and 670 of them were awaiting a kidney transplant. Each year, growing numbers of men, women and children die waiting for a transplant because there is a critical shortage of organs and tissues available.
Q: Why is the waiting list so long?
      A: One critical reason is that the wishes of the potential organ donor are not known to the family. This is crucial because it is the family who makes the final decision regarding organ donation. Furthermore, if the hospital does not initiate a discussion with the family, the organ and tissue donation may not occur.
Q: How can I become an organ or tissue donor?
      A: It is very important that you discuss your wishes with your family as this will enable them to carry out your wishes. In Quebec, it is also important to confirm your decision by signing your organ and tissue donor sticker and sticking it on the back of your health insurance card.
Q: What organs and tissues can be donated?
      A: Most donors can donate several different organs, including the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas and bowel. Tissues that can be donated include eyes, skin, heart valves, bones, tendons, veins and ligaments. One donor can save or improve the lives of many others.
Q: Who can be an organ and tissue donor?

A: Anyone of any age can donate organs and tissues. It is the health of the donor that is most important.

Organs :
Organ donors are usually healthy people who have died suddenly following a severe brain injury causing brain death. Brain death cannot be reversed, and can only be declared by two physicians who are not involved in the organ donation or transplantation process. Organ donation can only take place if brain death is declared and the family consents to the donation.
Tissues : Any healthy person can donate tissues regardless of the cause of their death. Major infections and a history of cancer are the two most common reasons why donation cannot occur.
Q: What is the success rate for organ and tissue transplants?
      A: In general, one year after a transplant, 70 to 95 per cent of recipients are living healthy, active lives. Transplantation has become a very successful and accepted treatment for people with organ failure. This is due to improved surgical techniques and the development of new drugs to prevent organ rejection.
Q: Can I designate only specific organs or tissues for donation?
      A: Yes. Make your wishes known to your family as they will be asked to consent to the donation. Specify your wishes on your donor sticker which you will place at the back of your health insurance card.
Q: What else do I need to know?
      A: After the family has consented to donation, the donor organs and tissues are assessed to determine if they are suitable for transplantation.

The medical costs associated with organ and tissue donation are covered by provincial health plans.

Donors may still have an open casket at the funeral since there is no disfigurement of the body.

Most major religions support the principles of organ and tissue donation. Talk to your spiritual leader if you have any questions.

Q: If an individual becomes a donor, does that donation remain confidential?
      A: Legislation in Quebec ensures complete confidentiality for the donor. Unless the family gives permission for that information to be released, only the immediate family need know about the donation.
Q: Can someone buy or sell organs or tissues in Canada?
      A: The buying or selling of organs is illegal in Canada. Canada's Human Tissue Gift Act prohibits the sale of organs or tissues for profit.

For more information, please contact your local chapter of the Foundation or contact .

Danièle Drolet
Director of the Organ Donation Program
The Kidney Foundation of Canada
Quebec Branch
2300 René-Lévesque Blvd. W
Montreal (Quebec) H3H 2R5




For further information on organ donation

The Kidney Foundation of Canada distributes various tools of information on awareness to organ donation.

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©, La Fondation canadienne du rein, Succursale du Québec, 2002
Production Groupe Dorcas, 2002