Ted was a hard-working plumber who died from an unexpected heart attack at the age of 53. He was very chatty and often talked to his clients about what was on his mind while he worked. One of his clients, Rachel, recalls that he mentioned his desire to donate his organs, should anything happen to him, to help others in need. Other clients of his remember the same conversation, but recall that he made it perfectly clear that although he would donate his organs, he couldn’t fathom the idea of donating his skin, tissue, and bones. He checked off the box at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to be an organ donor thinking it was enough, and he never did estate planning. When he died, his organs were donated, but so were his bones and skin, a fate he never would have wanted.
It can be hard to think about what’s going to happen to your body after you die, let alone donating your organs and tissue. However, since more than 120,000 organs are needed in the U.S., many people see organ donation as a way to save a life. For those who want to donate to help others or to advance science, the first logical thought is often to visit the DMV and check the “organ donor” box on their driver’s license renewal or register with the state organ donor database, but this is far from enough.
What many don’t realize is that declaring an intention to be an organ donor should involve more than a simple checkbox at the DMV, unless you are okay with not having a say in what body parts will be donated and how they will be used. What if, as in the example above, you want to donate your organs for transplant, but not your skin, bones, tissue or entire body to science? What if you only want to donate specific organs, such as a kidney, and you want it to go to your cousin Fred who is undergoing dialysis and is in need? What if you are intent on having an open casket funeral and don’t want your skin donated? Without estate planning documents, specifically a properly-drafted Advance Medical Directive, you don’t really have a say in these important details. An Advance Medical Directive authorizes another person to make decisions with respect to your medical care in the event you are physically or mentally unable to do so.
To avoid confusion or delays, it’s important to tell others that you feel strongly about donating or not donating your organs and that you have an Advance Medical Directive. Consider discussing the matter with family members, your health care providers, and close friends.
(Copied from an email from The Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. in Fairfax Virginia)
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