By Barry Ellsworth
TRENTON, Canada (AA) – Canada’s Nova Scotia province on Monday became the first jurisdiction in North America where residents will be presumed to agree to donate their organs and tissue after death.
“As of today, Jan. 18th, the Human Organ and Tissue Donation Act is now in effect,” tweeted Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil. “This means that all Nova Scotians will be a potential donor unless they opt out, giving patients waiting for a transplant a better chance of getting one sooner.”
According to a news release from the province, there are more than 100 people waiting for a lifesaving or life-changing transplant at any given time. The province on Canada’s east coast has just over 970,000 residents.
“Our province is the first place in North America to have legislation that maximizes organ and tissue donations to save more lives, while fully respecting people’s ability to participate or not,” McNeil stated in the news release.
Dr. Stephen Beed, medical director of the donor program, said the new law is a significant step forward.
“This legislation…will contribute to more Nova Scotians being able to live healthier and long lives after successful organ or tissue transplantation,” he said in the press release.
Previously, those, upon death, who wished to donate organs and tissues had to sign a form to that effect. Now, they are deemed to give presumed consent.
Organs include kidneys, heart, lungs, liver, pancreas and small bowel, while tissues are corneas, sclera (white layer in eye), skin, heart for valves, bone, cartilage, tendons and ligaments.
Families will still be asked about deceased loved ones' wishes regarding donation, he said.
The new law does not apply to residents under 19-years-of-age, those who are incapable of making a decision about donation and residents who have only been in the province less than a year.
There is a form on the provincial website where residents can opt out of the donation if they so choose.