People are often surprised to learn how rare it is for someone to become an organ donor. For an individual to become an organ donor, they must die in hospital while on life support, which accounts for only a small percentage of deaths. (This is not the case for tissue donation, which can take place in most cases when someone has died, as long as the tissue is suitable for transplantation.)
Your decision to register is confidential. It can be changed or withdrawn at any time. As part of your donation decision, you can choose to donate organs and tissue for transplantation and/or research, as well as specify organs and/or tissue for donation. Your registration decision is stored in the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care database and is only disclosed at end of life to Trillium Gift of Life Network, Ontario’s organ and tissue donation and transplantation agency, when all life saving efforts have failed, for the purposes of sharing your decision with your family. Even your physician who is responsible for your care will not know about your decision to donate. Your decision to save lives through organ and tissue donation, does not impact the treatment that you receive in a medical emergency or in the hospital. Families are approached to obtain consent for organ and tissue donation at the hospital during end-of-life discussions. If their loved one has registered their consent to donate organs and/or tissue (meaning their organ and tissue donation decision is recorded in the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care database), this information is shared with the family. By registering your consent to donate, you relieve your family of the burden of making this decision on your behalf.
Testing is done to confirm the medical suitability of the organs and tissue, and to determine which patients waiting for organ transplantation are the best match for the donated organs. A Trillium Gift of Life Network coordinator speaks with the donor's family to get a medical and social history of their loved one, similar to the questionnaire completed when donating blood. Organs and tissues will not be recovered if they are not suitable for transplantation.
Recovery of organs occurs in the operating room, usually within 24 hours by physicians and trained health care professionals with skill and respect. Donation typically does not impact funeral or burial plans, and it often occurs while families are making these arrangements and contacting others. In fact, an open casket funeral is possible. Trillium Gift of Life Network stays in contact with families to inform them when organ and tissue recovery is complete.
Trillium Gift of Life Network staff work closely with healthcare professionals to support the grieving families through the decision to donate, and to ensure as many people as possible benefit from the generous gift of organs and/or tissue. Trillium Gift of Life Network will later send a letter to the family thanking them for their gift and to inform them of the outcome.
Make sure your decision to save lives is known. Please take 2 minutes to register your consent.