Organ Donation and End of Life Planning

April is National Donate Life Month and organ donation is an important issue facing the country. Every year 100,000 Americans need an organ transplant, but only 22,000 took place in the United States last year. Only 18 percent of eligible New Yorkers are registered as organ donors. This is well below the national average of 42 percent. Sadly, someone is added to the transplant waiting list every 11 minutes. Considering organ donation is a good time to also consider other end-of-life issues and create a living will.

Almost anyone can be an organ donor. Medical history is generally more important than age. Liver donors have been as old as 92. Furthermore, there are very few diseases that will entirely bar donation. While certain organs may not be appropriate for transfer, it is possible that other organs and tissue are.

Being an organ donor does not require a living will, but it is important to make other decisions like organ donations before it becomes impossible. Desires about life-sustaining treatments like respiration and ventilation must be legally documented. If they are not properly documented, it can be extremely difficult for spouses or children to make end of life decisions for a loved one.

It can be hard to talk about death, but a living will with specific instructions about treatment can provide peace of mind. Talking with family members will help them understand the personal decisions being made. Designating a health care proxy for decisions and speaking to them about the decisions you want to have made is very beneficial. Family members will be more comfortable making difficult decisions knowing it is what their loved one would want.

Source: Health News Digest, "Top 10 Things You Should Know about Organ Donation," April 9, 2012

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