The need for donors

There are over 4,500 people in Canada right now who are waiting for an organ transplant. If they receive the organ or organs they need, their lives could be saved or greatly enhanced.

The number of transplants performed in Canada is almost 3,000 each year. Although the number of deceased organ donors have increased by 40% in the past decade, the need for organ and tissue donations will only continue to rise over time due to our aging population. The last decade has also seen an increase in the need for organ donation. For example, the incidence of end-stage renal disease has increased quite a bit, causing an increase in the demand for kidney donation.

A new lung may turn their gasping breaths into effortless ones; a new liver or kidney could cleanse their bodies of waste; a new cornea could bring into focus their blurred vision.

At the same time, if would-be recipients don't undergo an organ transplant, death or protracted illness may be the result.

In 2016, there were about 2,800 organs that were transplanted, but over 4,500 people were on the waiting list. Unfortunately, 260 people died during that year waiting for a transplant. A single deceased donor can provide up to 8 organs for transplantation. Although the number of deceased donors in Canada has increased significantly in recent years, still less than 20% of Canadians have made arrangements to donate their tissues and organs.

Thanks to advances in medical technology and surgeon training, many forms of transplants are performed with high success rates. In Canada, the average success rate of adults is between 85% and 90%.

The main organs and tissues donated after a person dies are kidneys, corneas, heart, liver, lungs, pancreas, bowel, bone, eye tissue, and skin.

There is no age restriction dictating who can and cannot donate their organs. Nothing regarding your final wishes upon your death (i.e., funeral arrangements) changes, and there is no additional charge to you or your family. Your general health and underlying medical history are more important in determining whether or not you could donate your organs. But don't underestimate their usefulness - even if you wear glasses because of poor vision, for instance, you can still donate your corneas.

Although most transplants are from decreased donors, you can also donate certain organs while you're alive. Living donors can donate a kidney, part of their liver, or a lobe of the lung.

So why would you want to donate? Donated organs don't just positively impact the life of the person who receives them – they may also bring purpose to the family of the donor. In fact, studies have shown that families who have donated the organs of a deceased relative feel comforted and consoled knowing their loss has served a dignified purpose.

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