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About Organ and tissue Donation

What organs and tissues can be donated?
You can donate your heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, small bowel, stomach, corneas, heart valves, pericardium, bone, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and skin.

Why should I donate my organs and tissues?
Organ and tissue donation saves lives. An organ transplant is often the only treatment for people with organs that are damaged through injury or disease and who would otherwise die. Skin, bone, eye, and heart valve donations also dramatically change and improve the quality of life for people of all ages. Outcomes continue to improve each year so more and more transplant patients are living longer and healthier lives.

If I have indicated my intent to be an organ and tissue donor, will medical staff still do everything possible to save my life?
The first and foremost concern for healthcare professionals caring for critically ill patients is to do everything possible to save lives. The possibility of donation is only considered when all lifesaving efforts have failed.

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Will my family be asked about my intent to donate?
If you become a candidate for organ donation, Transplant Manitoba – Gift of Life will ask your next of kin to give their consent to donation on your behalf.

Once in hospital, there is usually no chance to discuss donation with the potential donor, which leaves the decision to the family. It is much easier for the family to make the decision if they know the wishes of their loved one before hand.

For eye and tissue donation, if you are a candidate, Tissue Bank Manitoba and the Misericordia Eye Bank will contact the family after your death and discuss with them the opportunity to honour your wishes concerning tissue and eye donation.

Can my family overrule my wishes to be a donor?
It is the common practice of Manitoba's human tissue gift agencies to reaffirm an individual's consent to donate with the family. In almost all cases, families honour and respect their loved ones' donation decision if they have evidence that it's what they wanted. Therefore, it's important to register your consent to donate so that your family can be advised of your decision and feel confident about giving consent to donation on your behalf. Donation will not take place without your family's consent.

How do you know if organs and/or tissues are suitable to donate?
The health of the organs and tissues of a potential donor are all evaluated by medical professionals and must comply with Health Canada and if appropriate, FDA regulations in the United States. The suitability of an organ is not certain until the doctor sees it in the procurement surgery. Tissue suitability is assessed by a medical screening procedure (i.e., medical record review, medical and social history questionnaire) in accordance with policies and procedures within 24 hours of the death.

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Does my age, ethnicity, pre-existing medical condition or sexual orientation prevent me from being a donor?
Everyone can register to be a donor regardless of age, medical condition or sexual orientation. Your decision to register should not be based on whether you think you would be eligible or not. A donor's eligibility is determined by the health care team upon their death.

What does it mean to consent to donate organs and/or tissue for medical education or scientific research?
Every effort is made for the recovered organs and tissue to be used for transplant. If for any reason this is not possible and you have consented to scientific research and/ or medical education, the recovered organs and tissue may be used for these purposes. Medical education and scientific research is conducted in accordance with the policies and procedures of the establishments involved. These types of donations are important for enhancing medical staff training and evolving technology.

Note: Persons wishing to donate their whole body to science should contact the University of Manitoba Department of Anatomy by phone at 789-3652 for more information on making these arrangements. You may also visit their website. The Human Tissue Gift Agencies are not involved in this process. If you would like to donate your whole body, you will not be eligible to donate for transplant.

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When does organ and tissue donation become an option?
You can become an eye and/or tissue donor within 24 hours after your death. By law, all deaths in designated facilities such as hospitals, must be reported to the Human Tissue Gift Agencies in order for them to determine suitability for donation. Your medical records will be reviewed and appropriate health care professionals involved in your care will be interviewed to determine suitability for donation.

If it is determined that you are suitable to be a donor, a tissue transplant coordinator or eye bank technician will contact your family to discuss with them the opportunity to honour your wishes. Having your wishes readily accessible to the Human Tissue Gift Agencies by recording them in the online donor registry, will help the tissue and eye bank staff in the donation discussion with your family.

However, if no documented evidence of your wishes can be found and you are a suitable candidate for donation, your family will still be contacted so that they can make a direction on your behalf.

To be an organ donor you must reach brain death. Most organ donors suffer a stroke or bleeding in the brain or have an accident or head trauma that causes the brain death. When a person in hospital is declared brain dead, or is progressing toward brain death, the intensive care medical team will raise the possibility of donation with the family. Sometimes the family brings up the topic of donation themselves.

If the family is interested, a member of the Transplant Manitoba – Gift of Life team will come to speak with them. The family is given time to make a decision. If they agree to donation, there is some paperwork to confirm the donation and which organs may be retrieved.

In some cases, you may be eligible to be an organ, tissue, and eye donor. If this is the case, all three human tissue gift agencies are involved.

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How long will the donation process take?
Times will vary depending on each case, but once consent has been obtained and the person has been cleared to be a donor, the process can take up to 24-36 hours to complete.

What is involved in the donation process?
Organ donors must be declared legally brain dead by two physicians while in the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital and on a ventilator that keeps their organs functioning artificially for a limited time. The family of a potential donor will be asked to give their consent to donation on the patient's behalf. If consent is given, the family will be asked to answer a medical questionnaire on the patient to help determine his/her eligibility to donate.

Once a person has been cleared to be a donor, arrangements will be made with the appropriate retrieval teams from across the country that will fly in to retrieve the organs and transport them back to their transplant centres. The surgery is performed with the same respect and care for the body as if it were a live person.

Tissue Bank Manitoba or the Misericordia Eye Bank will contact the family after a person's death and discuss with them the opportunity to donate tissue. Tissues are recovered after the organ donation surgery has been completed, if organs are donated.

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What impact does organ and tissue donation have on funeral plans?
Funeral arrangements are not affected or delayed by organ or tissue donation. It is possible to have an open casket funeral.

Can donor families learn about or meet the recipients?
The organ and tissue donation organizations in Canada facilitate anonymous letter exchanges between donor families and recipients. Out of respect for the right to privacy for both donor families and recipient patients, Transplant Manitoba does not help to connect donors and recipients.

Does my religion or culture support organ and tissue donation?
Most religions support organ and tissue donation because it can save the life or improve the quality of life of another. If your religion restricts the use of a body after death, consult your religious leader: these restrictions may not include organ and tissue donation if the donation could save or improve the quality of life of another.

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About the Sign Up For Life Registry

How will my information be used? Who will access it?
The information you provide to us here will be used to indicate that you would like to be an organ and/or tissue donor. It will only be accessed by the Human Tissue Gift Agencies of Manitoba when donation becomes an option. Your intent to donate will then be shared with your family.

I have had a donor card for years. Why do I need to register online?
Thank you for carrying a donor card and indicating your wish to be an organ and tissue donor. However, the blue paper cards are no longer an option. Registering online at www.signupforlife.ca ensures your decision will be made available to your loved ones if that information is ever needed.

What is the benefit of registering my intent to donate?
Organ and tissue donation saves and improves the quality of lives and we currently do not have enough donors to meet the needs for transplants. When you register your consent to donate, this information is recorded and stored in Manitoba eHealth database and will be made available to your family at the right time, only for the purpose of ensuring that your donation decision is known and respected. By making your donation decision today, you relieve your family of the burden to make this decision on your behalf.

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What information is required for me to sign up?
You will need your Manitoba Health card with your Personal Health Information Number (PHIN) to register, your name, and your date of birth as they appear on the card.

Is the website secure?
Although no website can be 100 per cent guaranteed secure, Manitoba eHealth, the developers of the site, have taken careful measures to ensure that all information transmitted to the site is encrypted. Sign Up For Life is committed to maintaining the confidentiality and privacy of your personal information in accordance with The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Manitoba) (FIPPA) and of your personal health information in accordance with The Personal Health Information Act (Manitoba) (PHIA). Any collection of information on this Site is in compliance with FIPPA. If you have any general questions, please visit the FIPPA website at http://www.gov.mb.ca/chc/fippa/index.html.

Why do I have the option to create an account?
Some people prefer to have a user name and password to access information they have entered online. Also, if you have created an account on the Sign Up For Life registry you can log in and review your choices on the questionnaire. If you have not created an account you do not have this option, but you can re-register using your PHIN, name and birth date as they appear on your Manitoba Health card.

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What if I have created an account for myself and forgotten my username and password?
You can request a password reset by entering your name and the email address you submitted when creating the account. A reset link will be sent to this address.

Once I have registered my intent to donate, can I change my decision? Can I remove myself from the registry?
You can update your choices on the Sign Up For Life registry either by entering your PHIN, name, and birth date as they appear on your card and completing the registry questionnaire again, or, by logging into the account you created for the site.

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