Organ donation is a critical part of our medical system, but some people are concerned that if they to become an organ donor, there will be a hastening of their death, as a surgeon will attempt to “harvest” their organs sooner rather than later. This is incorrect, as organs cannot be taken without permission from the family. Sometimes a family is reluctant to agree to have their loved one be an organ donor though because the individual has not made his or her wishes known to them. In such cases, the prospective organ donor’s wish could possibly be frustrated.
A Gallop poll suggests that when family members know that their loved one wishes to be an organ donor, 94% will honor the request. When they do not know though, only slightly more that 50% will donate the relative’s organs. Of all the causes for organs being unavailable from people who wanted to be donors, 37% are lost due to the family’s refusal to consent. That is a lot of lives that could have been saved.
There are a couple ways to document your desire to become an organ donor. Normally, when you renew your license, you can determine if you wish to be an organ donor, and a notation or symbol will be added to your license indicating that intention. Very often, however, people don’t take the time to think through this option, and what it could mean to others, so they don’t check the box. In addition, most elder law attorneys and estate planning lawyers discuss this option with their clients, in companion with other things, such as whether they want to be buried or cremated.
Basically, you can become an organ donor if you are at least 18, and if under 18, then with your parent’s consent. There are no age limits. Your health and physical condition really determine whether you are able to do so.
The most popular organs to be donated and the greatest need is for kidneys, hearts, pancreas, lungs, livers, intestines, cornea tissue, bone marrow, and heart valves.
In most cases, there is no cost to your family for organ donation, as costs are paid by the recipient, unusually through insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid. One of the best ways to insure that your intentions and desires are carried out will be to include organ donation language within your health proxy, power of attorney, or living will, as part of your estate plan.
Your family should also be informed of your decisions and you should be sure that they are willing to carry them out. If you don’t believe that they could or would honor your wishes, then perhaps you should select an alternate decision maker for if and when the time comes to make end of life decisions and carry out your directives relative to organ donations. This will spare your family of making this burdensome and personal decision at a very emotional time.
Hyman G. Darling, Esq.
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