Life Donation Awareness Associate of Midwest Ontario

Organ and Tissue Donation in Ontario

Organ and tissue donation is a critical component of Ontario’s healthcare system. Not only does it help to dramatically improve the quality of life of thousands of Ontarians each year, it also saves hundreds of lives each year. In fact, donations from one individual can help dozens of others. As our population steadily ages, organ and tissue donation will become increasingly important as organ transplantation is often the only treatment for organ failure, the risk of which increases as chronic diseases take their toll in people of advancing age.

However, despite the compelling case for organ and tissue donation, and Ontarians’ almost unanimous approval of the practice, the province’s donation rates remain low.

Why? In part because many individuals who support donation have not registered their consent with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. (Note that it is important to register even if you have signed a donor card, to ensure that your wishes are known on a 24/7/365 basis.) In the event of an individual’s death, hospital staff will talk to the family about their feelings regarding donation and what their loved one would want, even if that individual has signed a donor card.

It is difficult for families who are grieving to make a decision about donating a loved one’s organs and/or tissue if they are not aware of their loved one’s wishes.

An Ongoing Concern

In Ontario, the need for organ and tissue donation consistently outweighs the availability. Currently there are over 1650 men, women and children in Ontario waiting for life-saving or life-enhancing organ transplants. Some of these individuals will die before suitable donors are found.

It is interesting to note that almost nine in 10 Ontarians (87 per cent) report they would be willing to accept an organ or tissue transplant.1 However, only 17% of Ontarians over the age of 16 had registered their consent as of March 31, 2009.

Fewer still have spoken with their families about their wishes to help ensure their wishes will be respected at the time of death. These gaps need to be bridged.

Ontario A World Leader in Transplant Milestones

Ontario is an international leader and recognized pioneer in the field of transplantation. Its strong history in transplant-related research and patient care is supported by a series of “world first” milestones.

1956    World’s first heart valve transplant                      Toronto

1983    World’s first successful lung transplant                Toronto

1986    World’s first successful double lung transplant    Toronto

1988    World’s first successful liver-bowel transplant     London3

1997    World’s youngest multi-organ recipient               London

1 Decima Research, Ontario Attitudes Regarding Organ Donation 2000

2. Trillium Gift of Life Network, 2003.

3. Health Canada, 2003.

Facts on Organ and Tissue Donation

  • Everyone is a potential organ and tissue donor, regardless of his/her age. The oldest Canadian organ donor was over 90 years of age while the oldest tissue donor was 102 years old.
  • Ultimately the ability to become an organ and tissue donor depends on several factors including the potential donor’s medical condition at the time of death.
  • Recovery of organs and tissue is carried out with respect and dignity. It does not interfere with funeral practices and no one will know about your gift of life unless your family tells them.
  • Organs and tissue that can be donated after death include the heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, corneas, heart valves, bone and skin.
  • Most major religions support organ and tissue donation. If your religion restricts the use of a body after death, consult your religious leader. Restrictions may not apply if the donation could save another life.
  • Studies show that donating the organs and tissue of a loved one who has died can provide immediate comfort and long-lasting consolation to family members in their grieving.
  • Once you decide to become a potential organ and tissue donor, the most important way to make your wishes known is by talking to your family so they can understand, support and respect your wishes in the future.
  • You can register your consent in 30 seconds online at
  • You can also register as an organ and tissue donor with OHIP. Visit your local OHIP office or download an Organ and Tissue Donation Form at:
  • One person in Ontario dies every three days waiting for an organ transplant.

Statistics on Organ Donors and Waiting Lists

Organ Donor 10-Year History

Year Actual Ontario Donors Out of Province Donors Living Donors Total
2010 200 65 263 528
2009 218 69 276 563
2008 175 71 272 518
2007 200 67 264 531
2006 172 99 274 545
2005 148 72 249 469
2004 153 64 210 427
2003 143 71 194 408
2002 137 76 191 404
2001 128 78 193 399
2000 166 55 183 404
1999 133 62 156 351

Year to Date figures can be found at .

Waiting List 10-Year History

Year Kidney KidneyPancreas Pancreas only Liver Heart Lung HeartLung Total
2010 1073 48 24 237 57 58 1 1498
2009 1162 46 20 295 59 48 1 1631
2008 1193 37 23 309 51 69 1 1683
2007 1155 45 23 357 39 54 3 1676
2006 1142 52 30 428 32 58 3 1745
2005 1236 37 17 355 33 42 0 1720
2004 1288 44 15 412 48 44 5 1857
2003 1438 46 5 347 40 43 4 1913
2002 1456 41 2 309 47 34 5 1892
2001 1367 45 - 264 58 28 4 1766
2000 1324 34 - 224 34 31 3 1650
1999 1106 28 - 229 40 54 4 1461

Year to Date figures can be found at .

Making Your Wishes Known

There are two steps to indicating your wishes to be an organ and tissue donor:

Talk to your loved ones about your decision so they can understand, support and respect your wishes in the future. It is important they know about your intentions, as they will be asked to give final consent to your organ/tissue donation in the event of your death.

Register as an organ and tissue donor with OHIP. You can register your intentions through OHIP’s donor registry. Information is held in a central information bank and coded into health cards. This can be done quickly and conveniently online at or foms can be obtained by visiting your local ServiceOntario Health Card OHIP office or by downloading from the TGLN website,

Click here for Frequently Asked Questions

Trillium Gift of Life Network
522 University Avenue, Suite 900
Toronto ON M5G 1W7
Telephone: (416) 363-4001 or 1-800-263-2833

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