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To Donate or Not to Donate: How an Advanced Directive Can Protect Your Organs and Your Choices

Updated: May 10

Recently, a judge granted a family's request to stop a woman's organ donation, even though she was listed as an organ donor on her driver's license. This case raised important legal questions about the right to select organ donation and highlighted the complexities surrounding the legal framework that governs this vital decision.


Disclaimer: The information provided is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.


Personholding sign that says my body my rules my decision

Organ donation is a deeply personal choice, and individuals have the right to decide whether or not to donate their organs after death. However, this right is not absolute and is subject to specific legal and ethical considerations. One of the key legal considerations in organ donation is the principle of autonomy, which recognizes an individual's right to make decisions about their own body. This principle is enshrined in various laws and regulations governing organ donation.


The National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) prohibits the purchase or sale of organs for transplantation and establishes a national system for allocating organs based on medical need. It also requires hospitals to notify organ procurement organizations (OPOs) of potential donors and to request consent for organ donation from the deceased individual's next of kin.


The Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA) allows individuals to make an anatomical gift of all or part of their body, including organs, for transplantation, therapy, research, or education. This gift can be made in advance through a donor card, driver's license renewal forms, or other legal documents. The UAGA also establishes procedures for obtaining consent for organ donation and specifies who can make an anatomical gift on behalf of a deceased individual.


An advanced healthcare directive is one legal document that can help ensure your organ donation wishes are honored. Also known as a living will or healthcare proxy, the Advanced Healthcare Directive allows you to specify your healthcare preferences in advance. Such preferences include not only your wishes regarding organ donation but also the use of life-sustaining treatments (such as a feeding tube and hydration port) and the appointment of a trusted person as your healthcare proxy to make your medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so. By drafting an advanced healthcare directive with the assistance of an estate attorney, you can ensure that your wishes regarding organ donation are clearly documented and legally binding.


Having an advanced healthcare directive in place can help avoid misunderstandings or conflicts among family members regarding your organ donation wishes. It provides clear instructions to healthcare providers and family members about your intentions, ensuring that your wishes are honored even if you are physically unable to communicate them yourself.

In the case referenced above, the judge's decision to grant the family's request to stop the woman's organ donation illustrates the importance of respecting the wishes of the deceased individual and their family. While the law allows individuals to make an anatomical gift, it also recognizes the rights of family members to object to or revoke such a gift under certain circumstances.


Our estate attorneys at LSS Law can help ensure that your advanced healthcare directive complies with your state laws and is legally enforceable. We also provide guidance on how to communicate your wishes to your loved ones and healthcare providers, ensuring that everyone is aware of your intentions. If you are looking for more information regarding advanced directives, you can meet with one of our estate planning attorneys to ensure that your wishes regarding organ donation are honored.

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