If you want to become an organ donor, it’s a pretty easy process. Usually, they ask you when you get your driver’s license or renew your license. All you have to do is answer “yes” and you are an organ donor.
Of course, if you’re not currently an organ donor, there’s more to the process. Let’s look at how you can become an organ donor.
Simple Sign Up for Organ Donors
Even if you’re not currently an organ donor, you can easily become one online. Your state registry will allow you to sign up online, in most cases. Sometimes, you will need to go to your local motor vehicle department in person.
Those with an iPhone can use the Health app to sign up. This will, however, send information to a national computer system.
It’s also possible to update your information through the state’s online donor register. This may include choosing the organs and tissues you’re willing to donate. Every state is a bit different, however.
After you’ve signed up online, make sure to get your driver’s license changed. It will reflect your organ donor status.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services provides resources for organ donors and people interested in becoming an organ donor.
Take Organ Donation a Step Further
While you might think stating you want to be an organ donor on your license is enough, it’s often not enough. This is a good start, but if you truly want to donate your organs, it needs to be a part of your estate planning.
A health care power of attorney is the best way to ensure your wishes are met. You don’t want to put your organ donation wishes in your will since it won’t be read until it’s too late. Instead, include organ donation in your health care power of attorney. This will ensure your wishes are met.
Your Organ Donation Wish Shall Be Granted
When you state you want to be an organ donor, you should let it be known to others around you. While they may disagree with you, they have to honor your wish, if it’s put in writing. Telling others can help to ensure there is no confusion.
This will allow others to advocate on your behalf, if necessary. You should inform your healthcare provider, priest or pastor, close friends, and anybody you will give power of attorney to act on your behalf.
These are not easy conversations, but if you’re serious about donating your organs, it’s necessary to have these discussions.
Donating Organs While You’re Alive
The steps outlined above have to do with becoming an organ donor after you pass away. However, you can also donate organs while you’re alive. Not all organs can be donated while you’re living, however.
Most living donations are done between close friends and family members. However, you can make the choice to donate an organ to someone you don’t know. About 6,000 living donations take place each year. This makes up about 40% of organ donations.
The organs you can donate while you’re alive include:
- One Kidney – This is the most common donation as you can live with the other kidney.
- One Liver Lobe – Another common donation, a liver lobe can be donated while the remaining cells can grow or refresh back to nearly the original size.
- A portion of a Lung or a Full Lung
- A portion of your Pancreas
- A portion of your Intestines
These final three organs won’t regrow after donation.
Along with organs, you can donate tissues while you’re living including:
- Bone Marrow
- Umbilical Cord Blood
It’s possible to donate blood and bone marrow multiple times as they will regrow.
Before you decide to become an organ donor while living, consider the risks. A doctor should do a full physical exam to ensure your body can handle the donation. It’s important that you don’t have any of the following health issues:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
You should also be able to handle the physical and emotional stress that goes along with living organ donation.
Pros and Cons of Becoming an Organ Donor
Whether you become a living organ donor or just a regular organ donor, there are pros and cons to consider.
Pros of Organ Donation
- You may save someone’s life or multiple people’s lives. It’s even possible to save the life of someone you love.
- Your family may find comfort in knowing others were saved by your organs. Many families find comfort in knowing a tragedy didn’t go to waste and the organs saved lives.
- It’s not necessary to be an exact match with the recipient. A compatible blood and tissue type allow you to fit with many recipients.
- If you happen to have a rare disease, you can even donate your entire body for researchers to help cure or treat future patients.
Cons of Organ Donation
- If you choose to become a living donor, you will likely go through major surgery. This comes with plenty of risks.
- Recovery from living donation can be difficult and painful. It will likely change your life in many ways.
- Scarring is possible from living donation.
- A donor body will be kept on life support until organs have been harvested. This can be difficult for the family of the person to deal with.
- Some family members may find it difficult to deal with your organ donation and it may make them uncomfortable.
- Insurance companies may not cover medical issues caused by a living organ donation.
What if I Don’t Want to Be an Organ Donor?
If you have a strong feeling towards organ donation and you don’t want to be a donor, this should also be put in writing. Your family members should be aware of your wishes in this scenario, too.
Creating a set of instructions signed and dated is the best way to ensure you don’t become an organ donor. You can state this preference with your health care power of attorney, too. Make sure your family and your health care providers know your wishes.
If you decide not to become an organ donor and it’s in writing, you will be protected. It’s illegal for any part of your body to be donated if you don’t consent.
Who is allowed to donate organs?
There is no age limit on organ donation. Anybody can donate organs, as long as the organs are healthy and can be properly harvested in time.
If you’re a religious person, you do want to speak with your faith leader. While many religions support organ donation, some don’t and they may have a compelling reason why they don’t.
What happens if I don’t make a decision about organ donation?
Maybe you don’t feel strongly one way or the other. In this case, if you don’t leave any type of instructions or register as an organ donor, the decision will be given over to state law. If you’re a minor, the right to decide will go to the parents. With adults the decision will be left in the following order:
- Health care agent (if you have named one)
- Adult Children
After siblings, the decision may fall to more distant relatives based on the state laws.
If you want to make sure you get to make this decision, make sure it’s stated in your health care power of attorney. At the very least, create a set of instructions, signed and dated for your family. You have a right to choose, but that decision is left to others if you don’t take care of it while you’re alive.
What is the most common age for someone waiting for an organ donation?
Most organ donations are needed for those age 50 to 64. Those age 35 to 49 are next in line with those 65 and up following. Those under the age of 17 are the least likely to need an organ donation.
Do I need to be in perfect health to donate my organs?
No. This is a common misconception. you can donate your organs without being in perfect health. Doctors will look at your medical history, your age, and the condition of the organs. There are very few restrictions. Common restrictions do include active cancer, HIV infection, or systemic infection.
Will organ donation cost my family anything?
When you pass away, if you have decided to donate your organs, there is no charge to your family. Those receiving your organs also don’t have to pay for the actual organs. They may have to pay for the cost of care and the procedures, however.
There is no right or wrong answer to whether you should be an organ donor or not. It’s a personal decision you have every right to make. If you want to learn how to become an organ donor, you can use the steps outlined in this article. It’s a rather easy process.
Just make sure, whether you want to donate or you don’t, you make a decision. Put your decision in writing and make sure it will hold up based on your state laws. It’s best to make your own decision instead of leaving this to someone else to decide.