EDMONTON -- All Albertans may soon become organ and tissue donors without prior consent.

The Human Tissue and Organ Donation (Presumed Consent) Amendment Act passed first reading in the legislature Wednesday.

Right now, if someone in Alberta wants to donate their organs when they die, they must opt-in and make their wishes known to their family.

If Bill 205 becomes law, Alberta will switch to an opt-out system, meaning a person would have to refuse to donate instead of agreeing.

"A 90 per cent majority of Canadians support organ and tissue donation, but less than 20 per cent have made plans to donate," UCP MLA Matt Jones said.

"I'm excited by the prospect of where we can go with this," Alberta Transplant Institute Director Dr. Lori West said.

In April, Nova Scotia passed legislation that presumes consent for organ donation, but it is not expected to become a law until 2020.

According to Alberta Health Services, there were 464 Albertans on the organ and tissue waiting list at the end of 2018.

Donors can save up to eight lives and improve the health of more than 75 people.

Edmonton-made technology saving lives

On Wednesday, Alberta Health Services and the University Hospital Foundation celebrated 12 successful lung transplants that used a technology created in the province.

The Ex-Vivo Organ Support System (EVOSS) mimics the human body and keeps lungs "alive" for up to 48 hours, giving doctors more time to complete transplants.

"My life was saved by it," said Gwen Livingston, one of the 12 patients who received a lung transplant.

The machine also makes sick or damaged lungs viable for transplants.

"We’re only able to use about 25 per cent of donor lungs offered," said EVOSS creator Dr. Darren Freed. "If we were able to double that to 50 per cent of the lungs used that were offered, that would likely eliminate the waiting list mortality."

More than $1 million has been invested into EVOSS.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Nicole Weisberg