The organ and tissue donation process is unfamiliar to a lot of us. Some people may not even know they are registered donors.

Understanding the law and how it is implemented is important.

The first time many of us heard of choices about organ donation was at the DMV. More than 90% of individuals surveyed across the country stated that they registered their donation decision through their local DMV.

A pink dot on your license shows that you are an organ donor. That information is also forwarded to Donate Life California Registry.

Your Advanced Health Care Directive (AHCD) is another common way to designate you would like to, or chose not to, be an organ donor. Many of us have completed an AHCD as part of our will or trust. 

An ACHD consists of four parts. Part 1 is a power of attorney for health care, letting you name another individual as your agent to make health care decisions for you. Part 2 allows you to give specific instructions on aspects of your health care, such as withholding or withdrawing treatment.

Part 3 lets you express an intention to donate your organs, tissues, and parts following your death. And Part 4 lets you designate a physician to have primary responsibility for your health care.

Recently, I learned of a newer (2019) California law that impacts our choices regarding organ donation.   

Assembly Bill 3211 made the choice of organ donation all-inclusive in the directive, meaning that upon death organs, tissue, and parts can be donated for all uses including transplant, therapy, research, and education.

Some individuals who may want their organs donated for transplant only, for example, will need to specifically call that out by crossing out uses they do not want.

This law also makes organ donation the default, meaning that if you do not want to donate, you must opt-out. To opt out you may visit or call 1-866-797-2366.

If you prefer not to donate your organs, but you do not opt out of the registry or indicate your intention not to donate in your AHDC, then an authorized individual on your behalf may still opt for organ donation after your passing.  An authorized individual would usually include a spouse or a domestic partner.

Each hospital has a legal duty to identify and refer every potential donor to an organ donor organization (ODO).

Potential donors are identified using clinical triggers, such as those diagnosed as brain-stem dead. A network of organ donor coordinators speaks with families of potential organ donors.

If an individual has chosen organ donation via their directive or DMV designation, their decision to be a donor is legally binding and cannot be overridden by family, which is why it is so important to discuss your choice with loved ones.

There are many wonderful reasons to be an organ donor. There are over 100,000 people in the US waiting for an organ transplant every day, and 20 patients die each day because of a lack of organ donors. 

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