In the United States, roughly 118,000 people await organ transplants. New people are being added to that list everyday–and, unfortunately, some die while waiting, roughly 8,000 people in the U.S. each year. In addition to organs, you can donate various body tissues–tendons, veins, skin, to help people who need those tissues.
Of course, in many cases, you need these things while you’re living. So, a critical part of estate planning is deciding about donating organs. During the estate planning process, this issue invariably comes up–so if you’re thinking about estate planning, you should consider organ donation.
The decision to donate
As part of preparing an advanced care directive and a healthcare power of attorney, I have my clients make decisions about organ donation. Obviously, I’m a fan. However, I’ve had clients that don’t want to donate. They have their reasons, and I accept that. That said, I think donation is a good idea.
If you’re not sure what you want to do, you may want to discuss the issue with your family and your doctor. Sometimes people do not want to donate out of religious concerns–if you have those concerns, you might want to check with your clergy about your religion’s views concerning organ donation.
If you decide not to donate, you should make that clear in your estate planning documents and when getting your drivers license. Also, let anyone who might make health care decisions for you know that you don’t want to donate. Also, you can probably stop reading here.
Donating organs in Missouri
When you renew your drivers license, the folks at the license bureau should ask you if you want to be added to the Missouri Organ Donor Registry. If you say ‘yes,” you should be added to the registry, and there’s a small donor logo that gets added to your drivers license.
I also believe it is important to make your donation decisions clear in your estate planning documents. This allows medical providers to find the information quickly, and it also gives you a chance to explain exactly what you want done.
It is also possible to gift your entire body–usually this is done for research or educational purposes. If you’re going this route, you should set that up beforehand with an institution. The Missouri Department of Health maintains a list of nearby institutions that accept body donations.
Decisions to make
- Do I want to make a donation at all? If not, you can basically stop here.
- What organs/tissues am I willing to donate?
- You can donate any available tissues/organs–this is what most people do
- You can also restrict the donation to just certain organs or tissues
- What purposes am I willing to donate for?
- There are basically four possible purposes: transplantation, therapy, research, and education
- Again, most people allow donation for any purpose, but you can restrict the purpose if you want
And those are the things you need to consider about donating organs. Again, whether you decide to donate or not, it’s an important issue to consider. As you create your estate plan, take a moment to consider organ donation.