How do I become an Organ Donor in Manitoba?
Organ donation is presented as an option when a patient is declared brain dead by two physicians who are experienced in diagnosing brain-injured patients. Brain death occurs when a clot, swelling, or bleeding cuts off the blood supply to the brain long enough for the brain tissue to die. The patient will never respond to stimulation or breathe on his or her own again.
When a person is a candidate for organ donation, a Transplant Manitoba–Gift of Life donor coordinator nurse will meet with you, the patient’s family, and provide you with information regarding the donation process. Consent for donation is needed from the family in order to proceed. If a the patient is listed on Sign Up For Life, the province's intent to donate registry, or if a signed donor card is present, the donor coordinator will ask you to honour your loved one’s wishes to be an organ donor.
As the family of the donor, you will be asked to answer a medical and lifestyle questionnaire about your loved one to help determine his or her eligibility to be an organ donor. This is followed by medical procedures and testing, including blood tests, urine tests, X-rays and scans to determine which organs are suitable for transplant. These results are used to assess the suitability as a match for someone who is waiting for a transplant. Although the organs are offered to centres across Canada and occasionally the United States, sometimes a match is not found.
Why consider organ donation?
There are over 4,000 Canadians currently waiting for an organ transplant that could save or dramatically improve the quality of their life. Making the decision to give consent for the donation of organs from your loved one can make a life-changing difference for a person who is waiting for a kidney, liver, lung, heart, pancreas or small bowel transplant. One person can be an organ donor to up to ten people. For many families, knowing that something good came out of their loss can help with their grieving.
Once the organs have been matched and all the retrieval teams are present, the donor is taken to the operating room. The same respect and care is given to the patient during the donor surgery as with any other type of surgery. The donor coordinator will be present during the operation and, if you like, will contact you after the surgery to discuss the outcome.
How long does the procedure take?
Time will vary depending on each case, but once consent has been obtained the process typically takes between 24 and 36 hours to complete.
Can I consult with my spiritual leader, or request support from the hospital’s spiritual care services?
Absolutely. Should you wish for one of the hospital spiritual support staff to speak with you, they can help you through your grief journey and support you in your decision about organ donation—whatever that decision may be.
What impact does organ donation have on funeral plans?
Funeral arrangements are not affected by organ donation. After the operation phase of the donation process, the Medical Examiner will review the case before releasing the deceased to the funeral home of your choice. An open casket funeral is still an option as the body will appear as if it has undergone regular surgery and the stitches will be hidden under normal clothing.
All deaths in Manitoba are subject to autopsy, pending review of the chart by the Medical Examiner’s office. Should the Medical Examiner’s office wish to do an autopsy, it can be done following the donation process.
How do I become a living kidney donor?
View our presentation for more information to help you decide if being a living kidney donor is right for you.
For more information about becoming a living kidney donor to a Manitoban in need, contact the living kidney donor coordinator, Jody Sawatzky at 204-787-2400.
How do I express my wishes to be an organ donor?
Register your intent to be an organ and tissue donor on Manitoba's online registry, SignUpForLife.ca. It takes only a few minutes and you only need to register once. You need a PHIN to register.
If you do not have a PHIN, you can still sign a blue donor card, available at your Autopac agent's office.