Organ donation: What you need to know

How to make sure you're a donor from coast to coast, plus web resources for more information.

The basics, plus how to donate in the West and the North

About a third of organs that could be donated are lost because potential donors didn't make their families aware of their wishes, according to the British Columbia Transplant Society. And many of those waiting for an organ transplant in Canada die on the waiting list. So, if you're interested in donating your organs after you're gone, or if you want to make that decision for your children, there are certain steps you should make to ensure that it happens. Here are the details on becoming an organ donor in Canada.

Donation basics
Every province has its own way of keeping track of who wants to be an organ donor, but during the window of opportunity, it's the next-of-kin who will give the approval in most provinces, whether you intended to be a donor or not. For this reason, it's vital that you discuss organ donation with your family so that they know your wishes in case of your death. Once you feel your kids are old enough, talk about organ donation with them, too.

Who can donate?
Everyone should consider themselves potential donors, according to the Canadian Association of Transplantation, no matter your age or medical history. Even if your organs can't be used, it's likely that you can be a tissue donor, giving anything from corneas to heart valves to a needy recipient. So make sure to give organ donation serious thought -- you could save lives.

A province-by-province guide
Since health care is a provincial matter in Canada, every province has its own ways of handling organ donor registries. Here are the details for each province.

British Columbia
The British Columbia Transplant Society maintains a legally binding organ donor registry, which has replaced all previous methods of indicating intent to donate organs. You can register on the Transplant Society's website, by phone (1-800-663-6189) or by mail-in form -- click here for details.

Alberta, Nunavut and Northwest Territories
Alberta does not have an organ donor registry at this time, although you can make your wishes known by signing the back of your health card.

For more information, contact the H.O.P.E. (Human Organ Procurement and Exchange) Program:
• For Calgary and southern Alberta, call 403-944-8700
• For Edmonton and northern Alberta, as well as for Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, call 780-407-8411

Yukon Health and Social Services offers information on becoming a donor on its website. For information on how to become an organ donor with the Yukon Organ Donor Program, call 1-867-667-5209 or 1-800-661-0408, local 5209.

To show that you want to become a potential donor in Saskatchewan, place the orange "organ and tissue donor" sticker (included in each health services card package) on your health card. More information is available on Saskatchewan Health's website or by calling them at 1-800-667-7551.

To become an organ donor in Manitoba, in addition to informing your family of your wishes, you should sign a donor card and carry it with your health card. Donor cards are available from Manitoba Health's website or by calling 204-787-1897.

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