The variable impact of the overdose crisis on organ donation among five Canadian provinces: a retrospective study Journal Articles uri icon

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  • BACKGROUND: While most overdose deaths in Canada occur in the community, some patients are resuscitated, admitted to intensive care units having sustained severe anoxic brain injury, and have the potential to be organ donors. The purpose of this study was to determine the impact of the overdose crisis on organ donation in selected Canadian provinces. METHODS: We obtained data on the total number of organ donors and those dying because of overdose in five Canadian provinces from 2014 to 2018. We also obtained data for January-June 2019 for four of five provinces (Quebec excepted). We accessed federal and provincial data on the number of overdose deaths and compared the proportion of organ donors who died of an overdose both over time and between provinces. The number of organ transplants resulting from donors dying of an overdose from three provinces was also determined. RESULTS: From 2014 to 2017, there was a 35% increase (554 to 747) in total deceased organ donors but a 294% increase (31 to 122) in organ donors dying of an overdose. While the proportion of organ donors dying from an overdose increased overall, this varied from 35% (42 of 121) in British Columbia to < 5% in both Quebec (9 of 182) and Nova Scotia (< 2 of 16). There were 1,043 organ transplants resulting from organ donors dying of overdose in BC, Ontario and Alberta although only 2.5-3.5% (297 of 10,858) of those dying of an overdose became organ donors. CONCLUSIONS: There has been an increase in organ donors dying from drug overdose in Canada. Regional variation mirrors differences in total opiate-related death.


  • Keenan, Sean
  • Kramer, Andreas
  • Healey, Andrew
  • Weiss, Matthew J
  • Dhanani, Sonny
  • Beed, Stephen
  • Djogovic, Dennis
  • Sullivan, Kathleen
  • Shemie, Sam D

publication date

  • June 2021