If you’re like most people, you aren’t eager to spend time thinking about what would happen if you became unable to direct your own medical care because of illness, an accident, or advanced age. However, if you don’t do at least a little bit of planning — writing down your wishes about the kinds of […]
Over 100,000 people across the United States are currently waiting for donated organs. To be part of the solution to the ongoing need for donated organs and tissues, take the following steps to become a donor after your death. How to Become an Organ Donor 1. Sign Up on Your State's Organ Donor Registry To [...]
Over 100,000 people across the United States are currently waiting for donated organs. To be part of the solution to the ongoing need for donated organs and tissues, take the following steps to become a donor after your death.
How to Become an Organ Donor
1. Sign Up on Your State’s Organ Donor Registry
To confirm your intention to be an organ donor, begin by registering with the organ donor database for your state. It takes just a few minutes to register online. After your death, medical personnel will search the state donor registry and easily locate your wish to be a donor.
2. Use Your Driver’s License to Show You Are an Organ Donor
When you get a new driver’s license, you will be asked whether you would like to be an organ donor. If you say yes, your driver’s license will reflect your choice and your information will be forwarded to your state’s registry.
3. Include Organ Donation in Your Health Care Power of Attorney
In addition to signing up with your state’s organ donor registry and using your driver’s license to indicate that you want to be an organ donor, it’s a good idea to include your desire to donate in your important estate planning documents, especially your health care power of attorney. (It’s not always helpful to include your organ donation wishes in your will, because it may not be found and read until it is too late to donate.) Covering these bases helps to ensure that your wishes will be known and followed.
For additional information about making a health care power of attorney, see Living Wills & Medical Powers of Attorney.
4. Tell Others That You Are an Organ Donor
If you’ve documented your wishes to be an organ and tissue donor, your wishes must be honored whether or not others agree with your choice (see your state’s statute, below). Nevertheless, to avoid confusion or delays, it’s important to tell others that you feel strongly about donating your organs. Consider discussing the matter with family members, your health care providers, your clergyperson if you have one, and close friends.
These conversations are critical because if you don’t document your intention to be an organ donor, your next of kin will make the decision about whether or not to donate your organs.
How to Donate Your Whole Body
Many medical schools and other institutions seek donations of whole bodies for research and instruction. You can make arrangements to donate your body to science by directly contacting an interested medical school or whole body donation organization.
For more information about donating your body to science, see the state-specific information in the chart below and review this list of body donation programs in the United States. You can also contact a national whole body donation organization such as Science Care.
If You Don’t Want to Be an Organ Donor
If for any reason you feel strongly that you do not want to be an organ donor, you should put those wishes in writing. If you don’t, your family members may consent to the donation of your organs after your death.
Write down your instructions in a signed, dated document — perhaps in your health care power of attorney — and be sure your family and health care providers know that you choose not to be an organ donor. If they know your wishes, they are legally barred from donating any part of your body.
If You Don’t Make the Decision, Who Will?
If you don’t leave instructions about organ donation, state law decides who will make the decision for you after your death. When a minor dies, the right to decide about organ donation goes to the child’s parents. For adults, the right generally goes to, in this order: your health care agent (if you named one), spouse, adult children, parents, siblings, and then increasingly distant relatives determined by the laws of your state (see the state chart below).
If you have any concerns that the right to make decisions about donating your organs would go to a person other than the one you would choose, don’t procrastinate. Take the time to document your own decision about organ donation.
Organ Donation Information by State
For More Information
To learn more about organ donation, see the website of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at OrganDonor.gov.