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The Legal (and Practical) Reasons to Register as an Organ Donor

Organ donation is a generous, selfless gift. Choosing to register as an organ donor is a legal decision, like a will or advanced directive.

The desire to become an organ donor is a decision an individual can formally document prior to their death through their driver’s license, the online registry, a living will or advanced directive, the iPhone health app or other official registry.

Like a living will, the decision is legally binding (for individuals over 18) and leaves end-of-life instructions for your loved ones to follow. Many families find these instructions to be a gift: they know exactly what their loved one wanted. That can bring comfort to a family after the death of loved one.

It’s the role of LifeSource to honor the decision an individual has made to become an organ donor if that individual meets donation criteria at the end of their life.

Here are 8 common questions we receive about the decision:

What does “Donor Registration” mean? 

Donor Registration, also referred to as Donor Designation or First Person Authorization, means that an individual has made the personal decision to donate organs, eyes and tissues after death and has documented that decision by registering to be a donor

What if my family doesn’t agree with my decision: can my family change my decision? 

No. When you register as an organ, eye and tissue donor, you are making a legal decision (for individuals over 18) that will be honored after your death. Donation falls under the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act and your decision is seen as a gift, which cannot be revoked by others. Therefore, it is extremely important to talk with your family, so they’re aware and prepared to honor your decision. Registering as a donor, and sharing that decision with your family, removes the burden for your family to make the decision for you after you die. 

What if I don’t document my decision about becoming an organ donor? 

If you don’t document your donation decision prior to your death, and you meet initial criteria for donation, your loved ones will have the opportunity to make that decision on your behalf. This is another reason why it is vitally important to talk to your family about your donation decision – whether it is yes or no. 

Organ donation requires being on a ventilator; what if my loved said they do not want to be on a ventilator?

To become an organ donor, an individual must be at a hospital and already on a ventilator/life support. This is important to ensure the organs remain viable for transplant. The donation process typically takes between one and two days, so your loved one would remain on that ventilator for only a short time.

If your loved one expressed they did not want to remain on a ventilator long-term, it’s only necessary for a short time to fulfill their donation wishes.

What is the legal age to donate organs?

Anyone can register as an organ donor. If you’re over 18, the decision is legally binding (it cannot be overturned by your family). When you register as an organ, eye and tissue donor, you are making a legal decision (for individuals over 18) that will be honored after your death.

How can I register to be a donor?

There are 4 easy ways you can register – you choose the way that’s best for you: 

  • Register online 
  • Check the Box on Your Driver’s License – check the box of your application when renewing or applying for a license at the DMV. 

How can I tell if someone is a registered donor?

An individual documents the decision through an official registry that an Organ Procurement Organization, like LifeSource, can reference. That registry is only referenced if an individual meets initial donation criteria. LifeSource can share that documentation with the family if donation is possible. If the individual documented the decision on their driver’s license, the word “DONOR” – or other indicator, depending on the state – will be listed. It’s important to have a conversation with your loved ones about these donation decisions now, before it’s urgent, so you can support each other’s decisions.

Does donor registration affect patient care?

An individual’s donation registration is separate from and has no influence on patient care. As above, donation decisions are referenced by Organ Procurement Organizations like LifeSource, and not by hospitals.