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Tissue from one donor can improve the lives of 75 people. [Capital Current file photo]

New program to help Ottawa police and paramedics identify potential tissue donors at scene of a fatality

The Ottawa Police Service is now actively working to help identify potential human tissue donors and save lives. 

In partnership with Trillium Gift of Life Network (TGLN), Ottawa Paramedic Services and the Coroner’s Office, some 500 officers and 500 paramedics now know about the importance of tissue donation and given the knowledge to alert potential donors to the coroner or the TGLN in the event of a fatality. Donors must be under 76, and the time of death must be known.

“Police officers are often the first to arrive on scene, and our officers have recently been given training to help priorize calling the coroner in the event they encounter a recently deceased person,” said Sgt. Steven Desjourdy, who is leading the project for the force, in a media release. “The coroner’s office then contacts TGLN if the deceased person has the potential to donate tissue.”

Tissue, a medical category that includes eyes, skin and bone, is normally collected in hospital, with consent. Tissue from a single donor can help up to 75 recipients.

Unlike donated organs, which must be immediately removed and kept alive, tissue can be donated up to 12 hours after death. The opportunity to donate tissue can be missed if someone dies at the scene of a car crash and no one alerts the appropriate agencies. 

Ottawa seems like the right place to start such a program. The city has the most residents of any major city in Ontario registered to be a donor.

TGLN says it hopes to expand this program across the province.

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