Manitoba is among the first in Canada to set up an online organ donation registry in a bid to boost the number of life-saving transplants.

The $100,000 web-based registry means people can sign up as organ donors wherever they have access to the Internet. That information will then be available to health-care professionals.

Health Minister Theresa Oswald said the registry will make it easier for doctors at a time of crisis. Currently, British Columbia is the only other province with such an online system in place.

"The electronic organ-donation registry will help professionals identify patients' wishes even faster and more definitively and ensure that opportunities to honour wishes about organ donation aren't missed — not even one if we can help it," Oswald said.

'This is a good day for Manitobans and a good day for Canadians as well.' —Brendan McCarthy, Transplant Manitoba

The registry is expected to be running within the year, but won't replace old-fashioned donor cards still associated with provincial health cards and drivers' licences.

Kristin Millar, a 27-year-old Winnipegger, has been waiting for a heart transplant for over a year. Her heart failed in 2009 and was only functioning at six per cent capacity. She's being kept alive now by a heart pump.

"I know dozens of people who are waiting for transplants," she said. "We're real people, all of whom have full lives ahead of ourselves — if we can make it to transplant."

Millar said she hopes the new registry will raise awareness about organ donation.

215 Canadians died

According to Canadian Blood Services numbers, just 14 out of one million people give organs for transplant in Canada, less than half the rate of the United States. More than 4,000 people in Canada are on the transplant list.

In 2009, about 215 Canadians died while waiting for transplants.

Brendan McCarthy, medical director of Transplant Manitoba, said the online registry is good news for people across Canada since the donated organs could go to anyone on the list.

"This is a good day for Manitobans and a good day for Canadians as well," he said.

But Peter Nickerson, former director of Transplant Manitoba, said signing a donor card or registering online is only part of the donation process.

"Ultimately, it's to tell your family and that they understand what your wishes are because the family are always the ones that we talk to," he said.

"It's their consent that we're seeking."