Tissue donation after death
Tissues that can be donated
Why tissue donations matter
Donated human tissue can be used in many surgical applications to save and improve lives. Tissue donation can benefit patients living with serious or life-threatening medical conditions including treating a patient with severe burns or saving a child who needs a heart valve replacement. Cornea grafts restore sight. Bone and tendon grafts help cancer, orthopedic and sport-injury patients restore their mobility and quality of life.
Unlike organs, donated tissues can be stored until needed. Donated tissues are often processed and stored in biological clean-room environments to better support clinical needs. Processing could include sizing skin grafts and bone grafts for specific patient needs or preparing corneas for transplantation.
Tissue donation, as well as organ donation, is a component of quality end of life care. When deceased donation is possible, all patients and families should be offered the option of both tissue and organ donation.
Facts about deceased tissue donation
- Only 1–2% of people who die can be considered for organ donation. Many more can be considered for tissue donation.
- A single tissue donor may help save or improve up to 75 patients.
- The number of Canadians who will need a cornea transplant is only expected to increase due to the aging population.
- Tissues do not require the same conditions as organs to survive, so tissue donation is possible after the heart has stopped.
- Organ and tissue donation are considered only after everything is done to save the patient and it is certain there is no chance of recovery.
- The surgery to remove organs and tissues is done with the same care and deep respect as any other surgery.
- Tissue donation must be initiated within 24 hours of a person’s death. Unlike organs, donated tissue can be processed and stored for an extended period.
- Tissue donation can occur at all ages, from newborns to the elderly.
- Families may gain the same solace from tissue donation as organ donation.
- There is no cost to your family or estate to donate tissues.
- Organ and tissue donation doesn't interfere with having an open-casket funeral
FAQs about tissue donation
Can I donate my eyes even if I have poor vision?
Anyone can register to be an eye and tissue donor. Even if you have glasses or poor vision you may still be able to donate.
Who does tissue donation help?
Deceased tissue donors help:
- Give sight to two people through corneal transplants.
- Save the life of a burn patient through skin grafts.
- Return a young athlete to full activity through a tendon graft.
- Save a patient’s limb through a bone graft following the removal of a tumor.
Our role in deceased tissue donation
We work collaboratively with the Canadian tissue community, providing continued support for national data collection, collation, and reporting on Canadian eye and tissue banking activity.