Organ donors: the gift of Life
At this time of year we all spend so much time trying to think of appropriate gifts for friends and family. The holiday season fosters the spirit of giving in so many of us. What greater gift can any of us provide than the gift of life? Every 11 minutes another person is added to the transplant list. For them time is winding down. Without a donor 18 people on that list will die every day. The list of potential organs for donation includes: heart, lungs, kidneys, pancreas, liver, small bowel, bone and associated tendons, blood vessels, heart valves, skin and corneas. Tissue donations are of even greater use. There are a number of websites that describe the process and answer important questions. As well, there are simple steps set out to register as an organ donor. The easiest is through the Department of Motor Vehicles. A red heart icon on your driver’s license identifies you as a donor. The New England Donor Bank website provides answers to many questions. Concerns about denial of medical services or disfigurement can be allayed by accessing their site. Every donor can positively affect over 50 lives.
Connecticut has recently amended its anatomical donation statutes, clearly defining the protocol for a donor or a donor’s family to make a bequest of this precious gift. Known as the Revised Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, Public Act 10-123 became effective October 1, 2010. The Act defines how and who may make bequests of anatomical gifts. Donor rights are clearly defined, including the right to revoke a prior designation as a donor. An anatomical gift may be made to: “(1) A hospital; accredited medical school, dental school, college or university; organ procurement organization; or other appropriate person, for research or education; (2) . . . a named individual designated by the person making the anatomical gift if the individual is the recipient of the part; or (3) an eye bank or tissue bank.”
If an anatomical gift is not specified for a particular recipient, ” . . . but identifies the purpose for which an anatomical gift may be used, the following provisions shall apply: (1) If the part is an eye and the gift is for the purpose of transplantation or therapy, the gift passes to the appropriate eye bank; (2) if the part is tissue and the gift is for the purpose of transplantation or therapy, the gift passes to the appropriate tissue bank; (3) if the part is an organ and the gift is for the purpose of transplantation or therapy, the gift passes to the appropriate organ procurement organization as custodian of the organ; and (4) if the part is an organ, an eye or tissue and the gift is for the purpose of research or education, the gift passes to the appropriate procurement organization.”
Anyone at least 18 years old can execute a document that contains health care instructions, the appointment of a health care representative, the designation of a conservator of the person for future incapacity and a document of anatomical gift. The document must be signed in the presence of two witnesses. No matter your age or state of health, everyone should create such a document.
In 2003 we lost my three month old grandson, Christian, to SIDS (Sudden Infant death Syndrome). My son and daughter-in-law were contacted by the donor bank asking for the donation of his heart valves to save the life of another infant. Through the years the thought that Christian helped save a life has been an immeasurable comfort.