Organ Donation in Manitoba

By: Ashely Newton
Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Medical science has advanced in unprecedented ways in the last century. One of the most important developments is our ability to transplant organs from one person to another; these procedures are complex and costly, but they save lives. One way we as a society can reduce the cost of organ donations is by making more organs available; this, however, comes with a host of challenges. We never want to encourage people who don’t want to donate their organs to do so, and we certainly don’t want to pay people for their organs. We won’t go into the ethical implications of those two options here, but there is a third option: making sure the wishes of people who already want to donate their organs are followed. There are two broad categories of organ donation: those which take place when the donor is still alive, and those that take place after the donor has died. This article will focus on the second category.

 

There are three general uses for organs after they’ve been donated: for transplant, for scientific research, and for medical education. Transplants are given primacy in Manitoba’s organ donation program, but not all organs are healthy enough to be used for these purposes. When an organ isn’t healthy enough to be used for transplant, it can instead be used for one of the other two categories; Manitobans who donate their organs can opt into donating to science or medical research, as well as opting into donating for transplants. In fact, Manitoba’s opt in service allows for a wide degree of customization; you can specify exactly which organs you’d like to have donated, and for what purposes. We’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves, though.

 

The “opt-in” service I’m talking about has two forms: it appears on your health card, as well as on a website, Sign Up For Life. Sign Up For Life places you on an organ donation registry, while opting-in on the back of your health card is a good way for medical professionals to see if you want your organs to be donated. That all said, organ donation isn’t simply “opt in and forget”. Your next of kin have the final say as to whether or not your organs will be donated; medical staff can show them your health card, and show them the registry, but if your family doesn’t consent, your organs will not be donated. That’s why it’s important to talk to your family about your wishes; in fact, it’s important to talk to your family about all kinds of things before you die, including living wills and your wishes for funeral arrangements. 

 

People sometimes wonder whether or not they should put their wishes for organ donation in their will. There’s rarely a reason to do this, as organ donation will take place very shortly after death. You can fill out a health care directive, commonly known as a “living will,'' which instructs health care professionals as to how they should proceed with your care - this directive can include your desire to be an organ donor.

 

There are some concerns about organ donation that come up frequently enough that they’re worth addressing here. The most pressing concern is the idea that healthcare professionals would prioritize organ donation over life-saving treatment; that’s simply not the case. Your medical staff will do everything in their power to keep you alive, whether you’re an organ donor or not; your status as a donor does not affect your medical care. 

 

People will sometimes wonder whether or not their organs are suitable for donation; uncertainty about this makes them reluctant to donate. Fortunately, a highly qualified team of medical professionals will take care of the organ donation process, so if your organs are unsuitable, they won’t be used; this means that health concerns shouldn’t dissuade you from donating.

 

At Alterna Cremation, we strive to provide you with as many resources as possible for planning and talking about your end of life wishes; the more your loved ones know about your wishes, the better. We offer pre-planning, Winnipeg obituary services, this blog, and more. Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact our funeral director; we’re here for you. 

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