There’s nothing like a column on organ donation to get the blood flowing.
There are several types of donations available in Texas. There are living donations, living bone marrow donations, blood donations, whole/willed body donations, and organ, eye, and tissue donations after death. The after- death donations are known as “anatomical gifts.” The guts of the donation law are found within the Texas statutes in Chapters 691, 692A and 693 of the Health and Safety Code and Chapter 521 of the Transportation Code.
Donations made during your lifetime are easy. You just make the arrangements, sign the paperwork, and go through the procedure. The main requirements are that you have the legal capacity to make a knowing and willful decision, and that you are not making the decision because of undue influence.
In contrast, donations of your body or body parts after death can be tricky. You need to decide in advance and then effectively communicate your decision in a way that is binding.
Luckily for you, Texas has made it simple.
After Death Donations
For organ, tissue and eye donations, Texas has designated the Glenda Dawson Donate Life nonprofit organization as the only statewide donor registry to record your legal consent for donation after death. You can register your donation decision when you apply for or renew your Texas driver license, ID card, online vehicle registration or online hunting/fishing license. You can also register online at donatelifetexas.org, by completing and mailing a paper form, or through the MedID tab on your iPhone Health App.
The Glenda Dawson registry provides a central database that procurement organizations can access 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Under the Texas organ donation law, your information can only be shared with an organ procurement organization, your health care provider or the facility providing you medical care at the time of donation.
Everyone involved is prohibited from selling your information or using it for marketing purposes.
If you don’t get around to registering, you can still donate. You can make a gift in your will, by signing a donor card, or by communicating your wishes to at least 2 adults during a terminal illness or injury. As a practical matter, however, it is much safer to put your name in the central registry.
Your agent or guardian can also donate your body or body parts.
If you are worried about someone pulling the plug too soon because you are a registered donor, the law provides that an anatomical gift can only happen when you are dead or near death. “Imminent death” means you require mechanical ventilation, have a severe neurologic injury, and meet certain clinical criteria.
If you do decide to donate, then you can designate who receives the “gift.” Eligible recipients include a specific person, an organ procurement organization, a research hospital, an eye or tissue bank, a forensic science program, a search and rescue organization that uses human remains detection canines and the Anatomical Board of the State of Texas.
For a full body donation, you can contact specific institutions such as UT Southwestern’s Willed Body Program.
If you do not want to donate, then you should write down your refusal and expressly bar other people from making an anatomical gift of your body or parts. A good place to do this is in your medical power of attorney. Make sure you give a copy of the document to your family members, agents, and health care providers.
The take-away? Decide and put it in writing.
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Virginia Hammerle is in her fourth decade of practicing law. She is Board Certified in Civil Trial by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and an Accredited Estate Planner. Contact her at email@example.com or visit www.hammerle.com. This column does not constitute legal advice.