Body donation program
Through the body donation program, students gain a deeper understanding of human anatomy through first-hand experience. At the same time, the program gives donors the opportunity to make an invaluable contribution to the advancement of health sciences.
Respect in all we do
The body donation program is a crucial part of the department of Human Anatomy and Cell Science at the University of Manitoba, serving all five colleges at the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.
Faculty, staff and students understand that it is a special privilege to study the deceased and all anatomical material is treated with dignity and respect. Each student is made aware that in addition to the university’s commitment to professional conduct, the law also demands that all who come into contact with the deceased follow strict guidelines.
Over the years we have found that students and staff often make contributions to the Anatomical Research Fund or place wreaths at the grave site as a tribute to the persons who contributed their bodies. Many students attend the funerals to pay last respects to the persons who made a special contribution to their professional education.
Those who contribute themselves for anatomical study are recorded in a Book of Remembrance. The care and thought taken in the preparation of this book are evident from its frontispiece.
Why participate in the body donation 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.
Though it should not be a primary consideration, it may be useful to know that the total costs for the cremation and interment at Brookside Cemetery are covered by the University of Manitoba.
If the body is accepted, the only expenses the next-of-kin may incur are related to transportation. Expenses related to transporting the body from the place of death to the university will be covered up to a maximum of $75. Should death occur outside Winnipeg, next-of-kin will be charged $1.50 per kilometre round trip for transfer, subject to change without notice.
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.
You may choose to register with Transplant Manitoba and/or Tissue Bank Manitoba in addition to the Body Donation Program. However, in the event of organ and/or tissue removal for transplant (with the exception of Lions Eye Bank 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.
If you or a loved one has a rare disease or complex medical history, you may be hoping to support medical research through body donation. It is important to know that our program is dedicated to teaching and learning within the discipline of human anatomy and we are not involved in medical research of this kind.
That said, other units within the university regularly conduct research involving volunteers willing to participate in medical studies. Visit the Research and International page for a list of projects currently searching for participants.
Who is eligible for body donation?
We are grateful for all those interested in our program. Without your interest and support, we would not be able to provide the teaching and learning opportunities our students and residents require. Anyone over the age of 18 years is eligible to register and there is no maximum age. (We do not accept infants, children or youth under 18.)
Please be aware that there are situations in which we cannot accept a donation, even if you have completed a registration form. We strongly encourage all participants to make alternate arrangements in case your body does not meet the criteria for our program at the time of death.
A list of limiting factors that may lead to a donation being declined are listed below.
Examples of specific conditions which would make a donation unacceptable are:
- Death occurs during a university closure
- Family is in disagreement with the donation
- Autopsy or medical examiner’s cases
- Bodies that have already been embalmed
- Death by accident involving major trauma or by suicide
- Severe burn or tissue damage
- Extensive internal pathology, numerous past surgeries including extensive abdominal or pelvic surgery
- Extensive cancer (as determined by the department).
- Major amputations, major deformities or severe limb contracture
- Organ or tissue removal
- Excessive edema
- Infectious or contagious diseases (e.g. HIV/AIDS, hepatitis-any type, sepsis, meningitis, tuberculosis, shingles)
- Severe antibiotic resistant infections (e.g. MRSA, VRE, ESBL)
- Scleroderma and/or other autoimmune diseases
- Extensive trauma to the body (including recent major surgery)
- Increased or decreased Body Mass Index (BMI) as determined by the department
- Natural deterioration of the body; where more than 72 hours have passed post death even if the body has been refrigerated.
- Deterioration of the body; where more than eight hours have passed if a body has not been refrigerated
- Death has occurred outside the 322 km radius of Winnipeg
How to make arrangements
Discuss your wishes
By the time you have made the decision to donate your body to the university you have likely given the decision a great deal of thought. However, your next of kin also have a role to play.
Talk to your family about your wishes, preferably while you are in good health. Seek their understanding and cooperation. It is important to know that if any member of your family is opposed to the idea of your participation, we cannot accept your body into our program.
At this time, Manitoba has no legislation giving persons the legal right to donate their bodies. 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.
If you have a religious faith we recommend that you also discuss your decision with your community’s leadership so that they can clarify their views about this act of service. Consultation will also enable them to be better prepared to guide your family at the time of death and arrange a memorial service.
Record your decision
You may register to leave your body for anatomical study by completing a registration form, also known as a waiver of claim. A link is available on the main page of this website.
Last will and testament
Most people who wish to leave their bodies for anatomical study think of including a statement about their wishes in their wills. However, there are two things about this procedure that you should realize:
- Burial often takes place before the will is read.
- Although your executor is justified in carrying out your wish, your family might disagree with the idea if they have not heard about it prior to your death. An undesirable situation might result.
Manitoba driver's license
Some people also believe that completing the donor card on their Manitoba Driver's License is sufficient to register for the program. Unfortunately, this is not the case. You must complete a registration form and send it in to the department in order to be registered. You will receive a letter of confirmation once your registration form is received.
Share your information
Once you have completed the registration form, there are two next steps you must complete:
1) Send the original form to:
Body Donation Program
Department of Human Anatomy and Cell Science
University of Manitoba
130 Basic Medical Sciences Building
745 Bannatyne Avenue
Winnipeg, MB R3E 0J9 Canada
2) Give a copy of the form to any other person legally entitled to claim the body after death.
This may be your lawyer, executor, spouse, common-law partner, parent, child, brother, sister, grandparent, grandchild, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, or any other person legally entitled to claim the body after death.
IMPORTANT: Do not put the form in a safety deposit box for storage. Burial often occurs before the box is opened.
Change of plans
You may change your mind to donate your body at any time.
If you have decided not to participate in the body donation program, please:
- Notify your next-of-kin
- Inform the body donation program in writing to remove your assignment forms from our files
Donation by family or executor
The program is sometimes contacted by next-of-kin or an executor who wishes to authorize donation of a deceased person not previously registered to the Body Donation Program.
Any person who legally has custody of your body and is over the age of 18 years may make the donation. However, it is preferred to have the donor’s signed consent on file indicating their willingness to participate in our program.
The following information will help familiarize your next-of-kin on what takes place after death and once the program is completed.
Giving instructions to medical professions
It is vital that next of kin instruct the physician and the hospital/personal care home authorities about the assignment of the body and ensure that the body is not autopsied or embalmed.
If the body is accepted by the university, the body should be prepared in the same fashion as would be done for a funeral home including documentation.
Notifying the university
Contact the department of Human Anatomy and Cell Science at the coordinates listed on the bottom of this page.
Office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday – Friday. Should death occur during the evening or on a weekend, please leave a message stating your name and phone number, along with the deceased's name and location. Your call will be returned as soon as possible the next business day.
The decision to accept will be given after completion of a medical history checklist and upon discussion with the attending nurses, caregivers or next-of-kin at the time of death.
After death, the deceased will need to be transported from the place of death to the university. If the body is accepted, UM will arrange for transportation.
Expenses incurred up to a maximum of $75.00 (subject to change) will be borne by the university. Charges exceeding this are the responsibility of the family or the estate of the deceased.
If the deceased is transported from outside of Winnipeg, mileage charges will apply at $1.50* per kilometre round trip (subject to change without notice.)
If the deceased cannot be kept under proper cold refrigeration beyond eight hours following death or requires immediate removal, please call Winnipeg Funeral Transfer Service at 204-956-2882 or toll-free 1-877-956-2882 to arrange for transportation to their facility.
Please note that the transfer service does not make the decision on acceptance of a donor.
We are committed to protecting the privacy of all bodies that are donated.
Faculty and students are only given the age and gender of a body if it is deemed necessary for their studies.
Similarly, we do not provide information to next-of-kin regarding the deceased and any illnesses or conditions we may discover.
Families who wish to learn more about their loved ones may seek an autopsy, which which can be arranged through their family doctor and at the hospital which specializes in this area.
Donated bodies may remain with the program for up to four years. After studies have been completed, the body is individually cremated and the remains are placed into individual urns.
Your next-of-kin has the option of interring your ashes at Brookside Cemetery in the Medical Section or claiming your ashes for a private burial at private expense.
Each year, the university arranges an interment service for the donors whose studies are complete (usually held in late June). The expenses for this interment service are paid for by the university. If next-of-kin would like an individual grave marker placed, this can be done at their own expense.
The Department of Human Anatomy and Cell Science preserves the memory of each donor by inscribing their name in the Book of Remembrance, which is on display in the department.
A memorial monument is also located at Brookside Cemetery to recognize the significant gift that all donors make when their bodies are entrusted to the university.
You may wish to provide your next-of-kin with a print-out of instructions on what to do following death: Instructions for next-of-kin [PDF]
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