Making the decision to donate

If you are aged 18 and above, you are welcome to register as a donor in our program.

The main reason to participate in the body donation program is to support the teaching and learning activities of the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences. Your contribution provides a unique and lasting way to offer service after death.

In addition to the humanitarian aspects of this important decision, making advance arrangements can help relieve some of the stress your loved ones will face after your passing. When a death occurs, your next-of-kin is legally responsible for your body. Your advance plans will help your family decide what to do next during a very difficult time.

Body donation versus organ donation

Body donation and organ donation are two ways you can make a difference after death.

Whole body donation is when you give your body to health-science education for teaching purposes. Organ and tissue donation is when you give your organs and/or tissues for transplantation into someone who needs them.

In addition to the Body Donation Program, you may choose to register with www.signupforlife.ca, Manitoba’s online organ, eye and tissue donor registry.

However, in the event of organ and/or tissue removal for transplant (with the exception of eye donations), body donation to our program is not possible. If you are declined as an organ/tissue donor, body donation may be considered as an alternative.

Communication with family

Open dialogue with your family about your decision is encouraged while you are in good health. Seeking their understanding and cooperation is pivotal – if any family member or next-of-kin disapproves of donation, we strongly recommend reconsidering your decision.

Donation by next-of-kin or executor

The next-of-kin or executor can authorize a body donation, even if the deceased person didn’t register for it. The person who gives this authorization, who must be at least 18 years old, is responsible for following the deceased’s wishes.

Having the deceased’s signed consent makes the process smoother and more respectful, but it is not required.

Changing your mind

If you have registered with the program and change your mind about becoming a donor, your wishes will be honored without question. Kindly notify our program in writing and share your decision with your next of kin.

Registration

To register, complete the Body Donation Program Registration Form (PDF), send the original to the department and give a copy to the person who will claim your body after your death. This may be a spouse, partner, parent, child, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, executor, lawyer, or any other legally entitled person.

Please note that the “Statement of Desire” section on the Registration Form is not legally binding, due to the fact that legislation has not been enacted in Manitoba giving people the legal right to donate their bodies.

In common law your body is not part of your estate; therefore, you have no legal right to bequeath it. The legal power to determine the disposal of your body rests with your next-of-kin, the executor named in your will, or the person lawfully in charge of your body at the time of death.

This is why it is important to discuss your wishes in advance of registering for the program.

When the donor passes

While we are grateful for all those who wish to donate, a decision about whether or not we can accept a body does not occur until the time of the donor’s death.

Before a decision can be made, the program coordinator must have a conversation with the deceased’s caregivers and/or next-of-kin regarding the medical history of the donor. Please make sure you have alternate arrangements in place in the event your body is not accepted.

Notification and instructions

When the donor dies, the next-of-kin should promptly tell the staff at the hospital or personal care home (if the donor was in either place) about the donor’s body being assigned to the University of Manitoba Body Donation Program. It is important to provide clear directions that the body must not be autopsied or embalmed.

Contacting the university

Upon death, call 204-789-3652 during office hours, Monday to Friday. In the event of death occurring outside these hours, please leave a message indicating your name, phone number, and the deceased’s name and location.

Post-death arrangements

Within eight hours of the donor’s death, the body should be refrigerated. If this isn’t possible at the location where the death occurred, call the Winnipeg Funeral Transfer Service at 204-956-2882 or 1-877-956-2882 to arrange to have the body moved to their facility. Please note that the transfer service only handles transportation and doesn’t decide whether to accept a body donation.

Expenses

The university will pay up to $75 for the transportation costs associated with body donation. If the transportation costs exceed $75, the donor’s family, next-of-kin, or executor will need to cover the extra amount. If the donor passes away outside of Winnipeg, a transportation charge of $1.50 per kilometer (round trip) will be applied. Please keep in mind that transportation charges may change.

The university will handle all fees associated with cremation and burial at Brookside Cemetery, but individual memorial plaques are not included. Alternatively, if your next-of-kin prefer, they have the option of taking possession of your ashes and arranging a private burial.

When a donation is declined

It is important to understand that the university reserves the right to refuse any donation.

In the event a body cannot be accepted, the next-of-kin or executor assumes the responsibility of making alternative arrangements at their own expense.

Reasons a body may not be accepted

Timing:

  • Death during a university closure
  • Delayed notification of death

Geographical constraints:

Death outside the 322 km radius of Winnipeg

Medical factors:

  • Autopsy or Medical Examiner cases
  • Infectious or contagious diseases (e.g., HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, sepsis, tuberculosis, shingles)
  • Severe antibiotic-resistant infections (e.g., MRSA)
  • Extensive trauma or recent major surgery
  • Increased or decreased Body Mass Index (BMI) as determined by the department
  • Extensive abdominal or pelvic surgery
  • Excessive edema (swelling)
  • Extensive cancer as determined by the department
  • Major amputations or deformities
  • Organ/tissue removal (except for eye donation)

Preservation challenges:

  • Natural deterioration beyond 72 hours post-death, even if refrigerated
  • Deterioration beyond eight hours without refrigeration

Family considerations:

  • Family disagrees with donation

Unique cases:

  • Severe burn or tissue damage
  • Individual is an infant or child (anyone under age 18)

During the program

  • Classroom with an instructor and a draped body.
  • Our commitment to educational excellence is reflected in the thorough embalming process we use. This process goes beyond what traditional funeral homes offer, enabling donated bodies to be used for teaching for a longer period.

    Bodies accepted into the program can contribute to medical education for up to four years, adjusting to the changing educational needs. Regardless of how long a body is with the university, we ensure the dignity of all donated bodies is upheld at all times. Medical histories of our donors are kept confidential throughout their time in the program.

    Please be aware that if even if a donor has a rare disease or condition, we are unable to offer any type of reporting on the nature or cause of the illness. This is due to the fact that the Body Donation Program’s main goal is to teach about the human body’s structure and function, not to investigate specific medical conditions or diseases.

After the program

  • Following the completion of studies, each donor’s body undergoes an individual cremation and the ashes are placed into individual urns.

    Your next-of-kin can decide to inter the ashes at Brookside Cemetery in the Medical Section or choose a private burial.

    Each year, faculty, staff, students, and health professionals come together for a memorial service to pay respects and acknowledge the noteworthy contribution these donors make to health-science education.

    A memorial monument at Brookside Cemetery serves as a tribute, recognizing the significant contribution of donors. Additionally, the names of donors are recorded in the Book of Remembrance, which is displayed in the department as a lasting tribute.

  • Image of a funeral monument.

Contact us

For your convenience, information on our program and registration forms are available in hard copy. To request a printed package, please contact us at the coordinates below.

Body Donation Program
Department of Human Anatomy
University of Manitoba
130-745 Bannatyne Avenue
Winnipeg, MB R3E 0J9 Canada

204-789-3652
204-789-3920