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Frequently Asked Questions

The Importance of Donating

Why should I donate my organs and tissues?

Your decision to become an organ and tissue donor can help save or significantly improve the lives of many people. Today, about 130 Nova Scotians are waiting for an organ transplant while countless others are waiting for a tissue transplant.

How many lives are impacted by donation?

Organ donation from one person can save the lives of up to eight people. A single tissue donor can save or improve the lives of up to 50 people.

Who Can Donate

Who can be a donor?

Anyone has the potential to be an organ donor. Anyone 70 years and younger is a potential tissue donor. Previous health history is important. As with donating blood, potential organ and tissue donors are medically screened to prevent the transmission of disease to recipients.

If I have a serious medical condition, can I still donate?

Yes, you can. Some tissues and organs can be donated even if the donor has a serious medical condition. Medical suitability criteria change as new safety information becomes available. However, all organs and tissues are tested and evaluated against current standards to ensure they are suitable for donation. Organs and tissues not suitable for transplant are not recovered. Not all recovered organs and tissues can be transplanted.

Becoming a Donor

How do I register my wish to become an organ and tissue donor?

Nova Scotians can register as an organ and tissue donor by signing up on their provincial Health Card. Simply download the Organ & Tissue Donation Form (PDF, 85k), fill it out and sign it, and fax or mail it back to MSI. Alternatively, you can call MSI at 902-496-7008 in HRM or toll-free at 1-800-563-8880 and they will send you the form by mail or fax.

I am in the military and do not have an MSI card. Can I still register?

Military personnel are able to register an organ and/or tissue donor in Nova Scotia. Call MSI at (902) 496-7008 or toll-free 1-800-563-8880 to request an Organ & Tissue Donation Form for military personnel. Fill in the form, mail to MSI Registry and Enquiry, P.O. Box 500, Halifax, NS B3J 2S1 or fax to (902) 481-3160. Once registered, a donor card will be mailed to you.

Should I tell my family my donation wishes?

Yes. It is very important to talk to your family so they understand your wish to be an organ and tissue donor. Donation can take place only if the donor’s family has given consent at the time of death.

What if I change my mind about organ and tissue donation?

If you want to change your donor status, contact MSI by calling 902-496-7008 in HRM or toll-free at 1-800-563-8880, and talk to your family so they understand your wishes.

Organ and Tissue Donation

What organs and tissues can be donated?

Organs such as kidneys, the heart, lungs, liver, pancreas and small bowel can be donated, and tissues such as corneas, sclera (the white outer covering of the eye), skin, heart valves, bone, cartilage, tendons and ligaments can be donated.

Can I choose which organs and tissues I want to donate upon my death?

Yes. You may choose to donate all organs and tissues, or only specific organs and tissues. In Nova Scotia, you indicate your decision on your Health Card.

What do Donor 1 and Donor 2 mean on my Health Card?

On provincial health cards, there are two different donor classifications – Donor 1 and Donor 2. Donor 1 indicates the person has decided to donate all their organs and tissues while Donor 2 indicates he or she wishes to donate specific organs and tissues.

Can I be an organ and tissue donor and also donate my body to medical science?

No. You cannot be an organ donor if you have chosen to donate your body to medical science. However, you may be eligible to donate corneas.

Can I choose who should receive my organs and tissues when I die?

No. Donated organs and tissues are transplanted to individual recipients based on need, blood type, genetic match and other criteria. A recipient can be designated only through living donation.

Is there a cost to my family if I choose to be a donor?

In Canada, the costs of recovering organs and tissue donation is covered by the healthcare system. The family is still responsible for funeral arrangements and costs associated with burial.

Does organ or tissue recovery interfere with funeral arrangements?

Donation may delay funeral arrangements for up to 24 hours. An open-casket funeral and cremation are still possible.

Living Donors

Can living people donate organs?

Yes. The rate of live donation is increasing. Kidney donation is the most common procedure.

Who can be a living organ donor?

In Nova Scotia, you must be 19 years of age or older to be a living kidney donor. Living organ donation may be an option for a healthy adult. Living donors may donate to a family member, a friend or to someone they do not know.  With living donation, a kidney is removed from the donor and transplanted into the patient in need of a new organ.

The Program

What is Legacy of Life?

Legacy of Life is Nova Scotia’s provincial organ and tissue donation program. Created in the fall of 2006, the program’s goal is to ensure all Nova Scotians know about organ and tissue donation, and choose to donate. For more information on the Legacy of Life Program, call 902-473-5049 or email Janet Gallant janet.gallant@nshealth.ca.


Where is Nova Scotia’s Multi-Organ Transplant Program located?

The Multi-Organ Transplant Program is located at the Victoria General Hospital site of the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax. The program provides transplantation services for patients from all four Atlantic Provinces.


Religious Perspectives on Donation

All major religions in Canada support the donation of organs and tissues for transplants or respect the individual’s choice to donate or receive organs and tissues. Most religions see organ and tissue donation as a charitable act of love and giving. If you have any specific concerns or questions, you should consult your religious leader.

The Canadian Council for Donation And Transplantation: Faith Perspectives on Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation (PDF, 460k)


Any other questions?

Please send your question to Legacy of Life: Nova Scotia Organ and Tissue Donation Program by email to janet.gallant@nshealth.ca or by phone at to 902-473-5049.

For information specifically about organ donation, contact Critical Care Organ Donation at 902-473-5523 or toll-free at 1-877-841-3929.

For information specifically about tissue donation, please contact the Regional Tissue Bank at 902-473-4171 or toll-free at 1-800-314-6515.