Once people finally begin the estate planning process, they’re often surprised by just how much information they can include in their personalized legal documents. For example, if you are starting to construct an estate plan, you can use a health care directive to give your authorization for organ donation.
Specifically, you can designate that your organs, tissues, eyes or your entire body can be used and for what purposes. In addition to donating them to be used for transplant (which can save or help as many as 75 people), you can designate that they can be used for medical study. Even if you are listed as an organ donor on your driver’s license, you can be more specific about your wishes in your health care directive.
While this kind of thing isn’t pleasant for anyone to think about and commit to a legal document, it may be even less pleasant to talk to loved ones about. However, it’s wise to do that too. In some cases, patients who can’t be saved need to be kept alive long enough for donors to be found for their organs. That’s another reason why having this information in your health care directive where your medical team and your designated health care agent can see it is important. Further, it saves loved ones from having to make this decision at what will already be a difficult time.
Some common misconceptions about donation
Some people resist the idea of organ, tissue and other donations because they believe they’re prohibited by their religion. In fact, no such prohibitions still exist in the major religions, including Catholicism, Islam and most branches of Judaism. Yet, you can certainly consult with a member of the clergy if you have questions or qualms about this process.
Another common misconception people have is that if they’re very old, ill and/or injured when they pass away, no organ or other part of their body will be of any use. That’s not true. Even if your organs are very old and failing, you never know how your body can continue to serve others after you’re gone. By authorizing donation, you’re simply allowing doctors to make that determination.
By seeking experienced legal guidance as you put your health care directive and other estate planning documents in place, you’ll be able to speak for yourself in ways you likely hadn’t imagined even when you’re no longer around to advocate for your interests and values.