●Estate Planning: Consider Being an Organ / Tissue Donor

 By Carol F. Barton

The decision to become an organ donor is not an easy one. People need to weigh their reasons for wanting to help the thousands of patients waiting for life-saving transplants against their fears and misconceptions about donating their organs. Many people fear that doctors will not try to save their lives if they (the doctors) are aware that they are an organ donor. Others feel they are too old or are not healthy enough to be a donor. Still others are concerned about costs and religious considerations.

According to http://www.organdonor.gov/index.html, over 120,500 Americans are waiting for life-saving organs; 18 of those die each day because of the shortage of organs. And, the gap between those who need an organ or tissue donation and those willing to donate continues to widen.

Conscientious time spent on arriving at a decision to donate your organs is time well-spent.  For instance, did you know that just one organ donor can save up to 8 lives?  Have you considered that someday the list could include a friend, relative or even a child?

With regard to people’s concerns:

·         Life and death treatment: Doctors who treat patients in life and death situations are focused on saving your life. The fact that you may or may not be an organ donor does not enter the picture until the patient has been declared dead.

·         Too old to donate:  Almost every person is eligible to be an organ donor. Doctors can decide after your death whether tissues and organs may be transplanted including corneas, heart, liver, kidneys, bone and cartilage, bone marrow, skin, pancreas, lung, and others.

·         Cost: There is no cost to you or your estate to donate organs or tissues; costs are borne by those receiving the transplant.

·         Religious considerations: Organ and tissue donations are supported by many major religions including Protestant, Roman Catholic, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism among others.

Organ or tissue donation is guided by a complex set of circumstances and regulations. For those reasons you should start the process with an attorney who will help you make decisions that you, and your family, are most comfortable with.  In addition, you may receive a donor card with your driver’s license. Finally, the most important part of being an organ donor is to share your feelings and directives about organ donation with your family and trustee to ensure that they understand and are prepared to honor your wishes.           

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