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Organ Donations – A Very Serious Election by Both Young and Old?

A 21-year-old Columbus man who had been declared legally dead but was on artificial life support had his organs harvested under court order [Thursday, July 11, 2013] over his family’s objections.

Your last will and testament is not always the only final word you leave behind regarding your final wishes. What about issues straddling that space between life and death? What about the matter of organ donations?

As a recent real life drama illustrates, the lines can get blurry when it comes to the subject of organ donations. Consider a recent example of this as played out in Ohio.

As reported in The Columbus Dispatch in an article titled “Family loses fight to keep son’s organs from donation,” Elijah was a young man who was hit in an accident on his bicycle. As a result, he suffered very serious injuries and was later pronounced brain dead.

But that was not the end of it.

You see, Elijah identified himself as an organ and tissue donor when he applied for his driver’s license. Note: that is one of those elections that can have some very binding implications.  Utah allows an anatomical gift by a minor when they apply for a drivers license and they are over the age of 15. In the case of Elijah, this decision trumped the will of his family in the disposition of their intestate and brain-dead son.

Elijah’s family fought because they felt it was not in his best interests. The family even fought against the organ-donor charity for whom Elijah’s organs were maintained until a court-order made the final call and completed the organ donation. This was the first time this particular organ-donation company has gone to court and it was a relative rarity in the nation overall. Unlike Ohio, Utah law provides that a donor who is an unemancipated minor dies, a parent of the donor who is reasonably available may revoke or amend the donor’s anatomical gift.

As this case clearly demonstrates, serious thought and communication are required when planning all aspects of your life and estate. When it comes to organ donation considerations, ensure that your loved ones know and understand your wishes. The consequences of “checking the box” on your driver’s license application are not to be taken lightly.

Proper life and estate planning is not something to delay until old age. The decisions you make, or fail to make, affect you and your family at every age.

Reference: The Columbus Dispatch (July 12, 2013) “Family loses fight to keep son’s organs from donation

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