Nova Scotia announced Tuesday that its new Human Organ and Tissue Donation Act will come into effect on Jan. 18, 2021.
The goal is to allow more residents to donate their organs at their time of death through presumed or “deemed consent.”
Starting in January, unless a person explicitly denies donating, and the decision is recorded on their health card, they will be seen as agreeing to be a donor after death.
The province first passed the law in April 2019.
The announcement that the law will come into effect in January, means Nova Scotia will be the first jurisdiction in North America to have a presumed consent law.
“Providing the opportunity for donation at end-of-life is an important part of optimal end-of-life care,” says Dr. Stephen Beed, the Medical Director of the Nova Scotia Organ and Tissue Donation Program.
Beed told Global News that he believes this will make Nova Scotia a leader.
“I hope we have a system that provides some good in the middle of what’s otherwise nothing but bad news,” he said.
Beed said the new law will allow “better care for potential donor families and better care for people who are presently awaiting a transplant.”
A news release says as of Monday, there are 108 Nova Scotians waiting for an organ transplant.
Last year, only 53 residents received an organ donation.
The province said in a news release, “a single organ donor can save up to eight lives, and a single tissue donor can help up to 75 people.”
Organs that can be donated include kidneys, heart, lungs, liver, pancreas and small bowel, according to the release. Donor tissues include corneas, sclera, skin, heart valves, bone, cartilage, tendons and ligaments.
There are several exclusions to the new law.
People who are under 19 years old, those without decision-making capacity and those who have lived in the province for less than a year, are exempt from deemed consent.
Beed says Nova Scotians are largely supportive of organ donation according to NSHA’s surveys.
The new system, he says, is designed to encourage donation but also support those who choose to not be a donor.
Those who know they want to donate will still be able to indicate so through their health cards.
The province will launch an awareness campaign in early July to inform residents of the upcoming changes to the Human Organ and Tissue Donation Act.
“This change will help more people get the good news they have been waiting for and ensure more potential donors have the chance to save and improve lives,” said Premier Stephen McNeil in the release.
Beed says he is proud of the new system and that Nova Scotia has a unique opportunity to be the first to do this as the rest of the country takes note.
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