Organ donation can be a difficult subject to discuss with family members, and can be an even more difficult subject when family members are faced with the decision after a loved one’s death. However, donating an organ or even a whole body for scientific study, medical education. or to save the life of another can be an important part of the healing process for family members when a loved one has passed away. On the other hand, burying less than “their whole loved one” can be very disturbing and upsetting from some families leaving it to the survivors to determine what their loved one would have wanted (read more here about Protecting Your Testamentary Wishes As An Older Adult).
Some people see the act of donation as an act of charity, or helping others through a living transplant or allowing study that may save the life of another. It has been estimated that 114,000 Americans are awaiting organ transplants and that one person is added to the list every 11 minutes and that each year 6,600 people die while on the organ transplant list.
Organ donation is easy enough now, as it can be a mere check the box designation on your driver’s license. No additional signatures or witnesses are needed. However, family members may not be thinking about checking their loved one’s driver’s license during a time of grief. Instead of relying solely on your driver’s license, it is best to include the decision to donate or not to donate in your Advanced Health Care Directive, as well as to discuss your decision with your family and loved ones. Your loved ones will be heartbroken if they cremate or bury your body before learning that you wished to donate your organs or body, or alternatively, if they make such a donation then find that it was not your wish to do so.
Whatever your decision is with organ or tissue donation or body donation it should always be in the context of your larger goals, which should be clearly spelled out in detail. A trusted elder law attorney can help you speak with clarity in this very important matter, and help ensure that your wishes are known at the appropriate time.