Each year, the month of April is recognized as National Donate Life Month in the United States. The goal of National Donate Life Month (NDLM) is to bring awareness to the need for organ donation and to encourage people to register as organ donors. There is a good chance you will be asked whether you wish to be an organ donor at some point in your life. Driver’s license agencies routinely include a question about organ donation when you initially get your license or when you renew it. Another opportunity to ponder the organ donation question is if you choose to execute an advance directive that indicates your end of life beliefs and wishes. Commonly referred to as a “Living Will,” this type of advance directive also routinely includes a section where you may indicate your desire to be an organ donor if you wish. Giving the importance of the decision to become an organ donor, National Donate Life Month is an excellent time to learn more about organ donation.
National Donate Life Month Activities
Initiated back in 2003 by Donate Life America, National Donate Life Month is intended to “features an entire month of local, regional and national activities to help encourage Americans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors and to celebrate those that have saved lives through the gift of donation.” April 21st is a particularly important day during the month known as “National Donate Life Blue and Green Day.” That day, supporters are asked to wear blue and green, hold events and fundraisers, and partner with local restaurants, malls, media, and community organizations in an effort to promote the success of organ, eye and tissue transplantation and the extreme need for registered donors. Additional information about Blue and Green Day along with promotional materials can be found on the Donate Life website.
To Donate or Not to Donate – That Is the Question
The decision to become an organ donor, or not, is not one to be made lightly. Donating an organ can save a life; however, it is also something that generally occurs at the end of the donor’s life. The decision, therefore, to donate or not is one that should ideally be made, by you, ahead of time. If you fail to make your wishes clear with regard to the issue of organ donation, your loved ones may be put in a position of having to make the decision for you at some point down the road. For this reason, and many others, becoming a donor (or not) is a decision that should be made when you make other end of life decisions in an advance directive if you have not already made your wishes clear elsewhere.
Facts and Figures about Organ Donation
As with all major decisions, the more information you have on the subject matter the better equipped you are to make the decision. With that in mind, consider the following facts and figures relating to organ donation.
- Right now, 119,000 men, women, and children await lifesaving organ transplants.
- Every 10 minutes another person is added to the national transplant waiting list.
- Every year, 8,000 deaths occur in the U.S. because organs are not donated in time.
- Every day, 22 people die waiting for an organ.
- 82 percent of the people waiting need a kidney
- 1 out of 3 deceased donors is over the age of 50
- There are actually three types of organ donation – living, deceased and VCA.
- Kidney and liver patients who are able to receive a living donor transplant can receive the best quality organ much sooner, often in less than a year.
- Vascularized Composite Allografts (VCAs) involve the transplantation of multiple structures that may include skin, bone, muscles, blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue. VCA requires a specific authorization, separate from a standard donor registration.
- In 2016, 33,600 transplants brought new life to patients and their families.
- 683,000 transplants have taken place since 1988.
How Can I Register to Be an Organ Donor?
If you wish to be an organ donor, registering can be accomplished easily in one of several ways. You can register on the Donate Life website or on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services organ donation registration website. You can also register in the State of Illinois when you renew your driver’s license by simply indicating your desire to do so. Finally, you can express your desire to be an organ donor in your Living Will.
For more information, please download out FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding organ donation or executing a Living Will in the State of Illinois, contact the experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys at Hedeker Law, Ltd. by calling (847) 913-5415 to schedule an appointment.