The organ and tissue donation process

In Ontario, organ and tissue donation and transplantation is coordinated and managed by Ontario Health (Trillium Gift of Life Network [TGLN]).

Although everyone is a potential organ donor, you may be surprised to learn that the opportunity for organ donation is rare because in most situations, there is the need to sustain a patient on a ventilator.

In fact, you are six times more likely to need an organ transplant during your lifetime than to have the opportunity to be a donor.

The steps from registration to donation are:

  1. Register Consent: Begin by registering your decision to be an organ and tissue donor. This choice is private and securely stored in the Ministry of Health's database. It is only shared with Ontario Health (TGLN) after all lifesaving efforts have been exhausted.
  2. Talk to Family: Once you’ve registered, talk to your family about your decision. That way, they’ll know what you want and can make sure your wishes are honoured when the time comes.
  3. The Critical Moment: If you experience a significant medical event (like a stroke or brain injury), and all life-saving treatments have been exhausted or are prolonging your life without improving the underlying condition, then the health care team and your family may decide to stop treatment. At this time, someone from Ontario Health (TGLN) will discuss the potential for organ and tissue donation with your loved ones. This is why it’s important to speak with your family about your wishes.
  4. Suitability and Matching: As a potential donor, a series of tests are conducted to confirm the medical suitability of your organs and tissue for donation. This step helps determine the best match for potential recipients awaiting organ transplantation.
  5. Organ and Tissue Recovery: In the operating room, skilled physicians perform the delicate task of recovering the organs. Recovery of tissue follows. These procedures are carried out with profound respect, ensuring that the donation process maintains the dignity and honour it deserves. Accommodations can be made to maintain religious or cultural traditions.
  6. Closure and Funeral Planning: After the recovery process is complete, your loved ones can proceed with funeral arrangements. Open casket services are possible after donation.

What can you donate?

Suitability to donate is assessed when your loved one is deemed eligible at end of life to ensure that as many people as possible can be helped through transplant.


Deceased donation is a rare occurrence. For someone to become a deceased organ donor, they must die under very specific circumstances and usually within a hospital setting. Only about 1–2% of deaths occur in such a way for donation to be possible.

The following organs can be donated and transplanted:

  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Liver
  • Kidneys
  • Pancreas
  • Small bowel


Tissue donation can make a profound impact on the lives of many Ontarians. Every donor has the potential to save and improve up to 75 lives through their generous gift of tissue. Donated tissue can also be recovered up to 24 hours after death and is stored for future use at a tissue bank.

The following tissue can be donated:

  • Eyes from one donor can restore the sight of up to 10 people.
  • Heart valves can save the lives of children born with congenital heart defects, and can transform the lives of adults with heart disease.
  • Tendons can return a young athlete to full activity through a tendon graft.
  • Bone and ligaments can save a patient’s limb through a bone graft following the removal of a tumor.
  • Skin (paper-thin layer) can save the life of burn patients through skin grafts.

Facts about deceased tissue donation:

  • Tissue donation can occur at all ages.
  • The number of Canadians who will need a cornea transplant is only expected to increase due to the aging population.
  • Tissue does not require the same conditions as organs to survive, so tissue donation is possible after the heart has stopped.

Living donation

A living donation happens when a person who is alive gives either a kidney or a part of their liver to someone with end-stage kidney or liver disease. As transplant waitlists grow and wait times get longer, for some patients, the best chance for a life-saving transplant could be a living donor.

For more information, visit Ontario’s Living Donor Programs:

Start a registration drive and spread the word.

Help spread the word about the importance of registering consent for organ and tissue donation. Set up a registration drive page to share with your friends, family, colleagues, and network, and encourage registration by letting them know why organ and tissue donation is important to you.

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