In Quebec, anyone, regardless of age, health or sexual orientation, can be considered as a potential donor upon their death.
The definition of a potential organ donor is as follows :
Individual of any age who has suffered severe, irreversible neurological damage and requires mechanical ventilation.
Barely 1% of people who die in hospital each year are considered to meet the medical and legal criteria governing organ donation.
The causes of death most likely to lead to an organ donation are:
- head injuries
- cerebral anoxia (cardiovascular arrest, drowning, hanging and certain primary brain tumours)
Organ donation can take place following neurological determination of death (NDD). NDD occurs when brain activity has ceased completely, at which point the brain is irreversibly destroyed (destruction of the brain stem).
However, it is now possible, in some circumstances, to donate organs in the absence of NDD: following cardiocirculatory determination of death (CDD), or cardiovascular death. A medical protocol is gradually being put into place at a number of hospitals to retrieve kidneys and, much more recently, liver lobes and lung.
A single organ donor can save up to eight lives while also helping as many as 20 other people through a tissue donation. While Transplant Québec regularly turns to tissue banks, the coordination of human tissue donation is the responsibility of Héma-Québec.