Virtually every estate plan we do for clients includes an Advance Health Care Directive, which is a legal document that allows you to name agents who can act on your behalf with respect to medical decisions if you are unable to communicate your wishes directly. One of the other questions on that form is whether or not you want to be an organ donor.
I’ve found that, of all the things we discuss during an estate planning meeting, that question tends to evoke a strong response–often negative. And that’s too bad. In California alone, there are more than 19,000 peple currently waiting for organ transplants, and more than 92,000 people waiting nationally, according to Donate for Life, the California Donor Registry. According to the California Transplant Donor Network, of those waiting for a transplant, one in three will die due to a shortage of organs.
I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be free to make that choice, but I thought I’d take some time here to respond to some of the most common concerns that are raised by people who have a negative response.
1. If I sign up to be an organ donor, doctors won’t treat me aggresively, or, worse, they’ll hasten my death to get to the organs. Actually, two doctor must make a determination that a patient is brain dead before a donor’s family is consulted about transplantation. These doctors are not the doctors involved in organ transplantation. Also, aggressive medical treatment is the best way to preserve the organs, not neglect.
2. I’m too old, no one would want my organs. Actually, people of all ages can be organ donors. According to the Organ Donation Network, two-thirds of individuals waiting for organ transplants are over fifty. The issue isn’t your age, it’s how healthy you are when you die. Don’t rule yourself out.
3. Donation is against my religion. Actually, almost all major religions support organ donation as a personal choice.
Whatever you choose to do, take a moment to educate yourself first.