If you have a driver’s license in Maryland, you have probably already given at a least a cursory thought to organ donation. You can provide much more detailed information about your organ donation preferences (also called anatomical gifts) in your Advance Directive.
What You Can Specify in Your Advance Directive
In your Advance Directive you can specify that
- a) you wish to donate any needed organs, tissues, tissues or eyes,
- b) you do not wish to donate any organs, tissues, or eyes or
- c) you only wish to donate certain organs, tissues or eyes.
For example, you could choose option c and donate any available organs or tissues, but not donate your eyes.
You can also specify for what purposes you are donating organs. The default options provided in the Maryland Health Care Act are transplantation, therapy, research, medical education or any use authorized by law. If you choose to donate your organs, you can select one or more of these options.
It is possible that your organ donation preferences conflict with your end of life wishes. For example, you may want to withdraw any medical intervention if you are in a permanent vegetative state, but you have also selected to donate your organs for transplantation. In order to get your organ donations to the proper recipients, doctors might need to keep you alive until a donee is ready. You can have either your organ donation preferences or your end of life wishes prevail in case of a conflict.
It is important to make sure that your preference for organ donation reflected on your Maryland driver’s license match up with what you have selected on your advance directive.
What If I Don’t Want to Donate My Organs?
If you do not wish to donate your organs, you can specify this in your Advance Directive as well. In fact, it’s even more important to put your wishes down if you don’t want your organs donated. Why? If you do not have an advance directive, or other document indicating your organ donation wishes, other family members can make an anatomical gift on your behalf. But if you indicated you do not wish to donate any organs (or only certain organs) no one may override that decision.
What Else You Need to Know
You may make organ donation preferences in your will, but this is not advisable because your will may not be looked at until it is too late for organ donation. The best place to put these preferences is in your Advance Directive, which must be signed by you and witnesses by two individuals. Anyone over the age of 18 and who is competent may donate their organs. A parent may donate on behalf of their child, or an agent designated in an health care power of attorney may donate on behalf of the principal.
If you change your mind about organ donation, the best thing to do is get a new Advance Directive that reflects your wishes. You may also revoke the anatomical gift orally, in front of two witnesses, if you are terminally ill.
Some people think that they are too old to donate their organs. In reality, anyone can donate regardless of age. The decision on whether to use your organs is based on medical criteria not age.
Your organ donation preferences should go hand-in-hand with your preferences about donating your body for science in your advance directive. Both decisions are controlled by the Maryland Revised Uniform Anatomical Gift Act and should be made in your Advance Directive.
If you need an Advance Directive or want to change your organ donation preferences, talk to an estate planning attorney in Maryland.
Montefusco Estate Planning, LLC is an estate planning law firm in Frederick, MD. If you are interested in our services, contact us today. This information is written for the context of Maryland estate planning but is not legal advice for anyone. For more information, read our disclaimer.