Executive Summary – Organ Donation and Transplantation in Canada: Statistics, Trends and International Comparisons

(Disponible en français : Résumé – Don et greffe d’organes au Canada : Statistiques, tendances et comparaisons internationales)

Efforts to improve Canada’s organ donation and transplantation system have increased over the last 20 years. However, despite a significant increase in the number of organ transplants conducted in Canada between 2009 and 2018, the supply of organs does not meet demand, and thousands of individuals are on a waiting list for transplants. Moreover, many Canadians on the waiting list die before appropriate organs become available.

Deceased organ donors can provide up to eight organs for transplant, although the average number of organs used for transplantation in Canada is three to four organs per donor. Living donors provide a single organ – most commonly a kidney or part of a liver. There were 762 deceased organ donors in Canada in 2018, and the deceased organ donor rate increased by 42% between 2009 and 2018. In 2018, there were 555 living donors. Although the rate of organ donation by living donors increased between 2003 and 2011, the rate decreased by 2% between 2009 and 2018.

Within Canada, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec have the highest deceased organ donor rates, while Manitoba has the highest living donor rate. International comparisons reveal that Canada falls within the top 20 countries for both deceased and living donor rates, however Canada’s rates are significantly below the rates of the top-performing countries, including those of the United States.

The pool of potential deceased organ donors is limited by several factors, including manner and location of death, age and the previous health status of potential donors. Efforts have been made in recent years to increase the pool of potential donors by including, for example, cardiac death patients in addition to brain death patients. As well, some individuals who choose to end life support efforts or choose medically assisted death may wish to become organ donors, and Canadian guidelines for these situations were released in 2019.

Read the full text of the Background Paper: Organ Donation and Transplantation in Canada: Statistics, Trends and International Comparisons

Author: Sonya Norris, Library of Parliament