Our California Estate Planning Attorneys advise clients to set up documents and plans for when they pass away. Having things documented will ensure that your wishes are fulfilled even after you are incapable of making decisions from being too old, too sick, or have already passed.

Each person is given a choice to become an organ donor when they die. The option to do so is yours, and it won't affect the quality of your medical and wellness treatments while you're alive. That said, how does it become official? What happens after you die? And how does it affect final/end-of-life arrangements?

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How To Become An Organ Donor In California

Each state maintains its own donor database. For example, suppose you registered with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles. In that case, you might get a sticker or other indication that you are an organ donor on your driver's license. You will be included in your state's donor registry in either scenario. However, organ donation can occur without a confirmation letter or sticker on your driver's license.

For them to support and advocate for your decision to give your organs, you might want to let your family, your health care proxy, and your doctor know that you are a registered organ donor. You might also want to mention in your advance directive whether you are an organ donor.

Again, organ donorship is a personal choice you can make. Your wishes will be followed as long as you've established things in writing or registered to the DMV.

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The Process of Organ Donation

You, your family, or your health care proxy will inform the hospital staff caring for you that you are an organ donor if you become ill or have a fatal accident and are hospitalized. The hospital staff can use this to get ready for organ donation. The quality of medical treatment you receive is unaffected by your decision to donate an organ.

The non-profit Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN), run by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) under contract with the US Department of Health and Human Services, oversees organ donation in the US.

Let's look at how the organ donation process happens:

1. Death (And What Counts As Death)

While "death" can be clear cut, brain death can also qualify despite your body still technically functioning in some ways. Brain death is characterized by a complete cessation of brain activity and the inability to breathe on one's own. Comas are one thing, but brain death is actual death.

A neurologist will carry out several tests (often more than once) to see if there is any brain activity to determine brain death. The neurologist will confirm death if there is no cerebral activity. The organs will be maintained alive until they are removed by keeping the body on life support.

2. Organizing the Donation And Receipt Of Organs

The hospital will get in touch with the regional organ procurement agency (OPO). First, the neighborhood OPO will verify that the patient is a registered organ donor using the state's donor registry. Then, a representative of OPO will visit the hospital and meet with the donor's family to discuss the donation process and collect personal data from them. A thorough medical history, as well as personal data, are typically included in this material.

To start locating a beneficiary, the OPO will coordinate with the OPTN. People waiting for donations are selected from the UNOS database and matched with donors based on various factors, including blood type, tissue type, height, weight, length of waiting for an organ, and distance between the donor and the possible receiver. The OPO representative will now start making plans for the surgical harvesting and transportation of donated organs.

How Does This Affect My Funeral Plans?

End-of-life plans detail what happens to you after death, from the moment you pass to burial and cremation. Fortunately, organ donorship won't affect your burial or cremation. So you can plan and do so as you wish.

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