Nova Scotia legislature passes presumed consent law for organ donation

HALIFAX — The Nova Scotia legislature has unanimously passed legislation that presumes consent for organ donation, becoming the first jurisdiction in North America to pass such legislation.

The Human Organ and Tissue Donation Act was passed as legislators wrapped up their spring sitting on Friday.

However, the act is not expected to be proclaimed as law for a period of 12 to 18 months to allow time for planning, public education and training for health-care workers.

Under the act, all adults in Nova Scotia would be considered potential organ donors unless they opt out.

Families will continue to be consulted about their loved ones’ wishes, while those under 19 and people without decision-making capacity will only be considered as donors if a parent, guardian or alternate decision-maker opts them in.

Premier Stephen McNeil says the goal is to ensure there are more potential organ donors in order to save lives.

“I am grateful for the support our government has received from Nova Scotians as together, we become leaders in North America on the issue of presumed consent for organ and tissue donation,” McNeil said in a statement.

“We are committed to doing better for our fellow citizens awaiting life-saving transplants, and I look forward to collaborating with Nova Scotians as we work toward proclaiming the legislation next year.”

Earlier this week, Dr. Stephen Beed, who heads the province’s transplant program, told a legislature committee that within five years of the legislation’s implementation he expects Nova Scotia would see a 30 per cent increase in organ donations. Beed added that he wouldn’t be surprised if that number increased by as much as 50 per cent.

He said steps will be put in place to ensure the opt-out provisions are clear.

According to the province, 21 Nova Scotians became organ donors in 2018, while 110 people donated tissues such as corneas and heart valves.

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