April is National Donate Life Month

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Organs are systems of cells and tissues that perform important tasks, like breathing or eliminating waste.  As we age, our organs deteriorate – especially the heart, lungs and kidneys.  It’s possible for a person to be relatively healthy, while sickness or disease or genes may ravish an organ.  Depending on which organ it is, life-sustaining measures may be required to improve your health.  If your kidneys are diseased or damaged for example, dialysis can help a person with kidney damage; but not without risk. A person on dialysis has a higher risk of cardiovascular disease because the process can reduce the amount of antioxidants that normally fight toxins within the body.

Sadly, the only solution for certain individuals with severely damaged organs is a transplant.  Unfortunately, healthy organs aren’t easy to come by.  More than 100,000 men, women and children currently require life-saving transplants.  More than half of those people will wait longer than one year.   Every 11 minutes, another name is added to the National Organ Transplant Waiting List.  On average, 18 people die each day due to the lack of organs available for transplant.  Each organ has its own list.  The one thing that all lists have in common is a shortage of healthy organs.

A person who provides an organ is called a donor, whether they’re alive or dead. The person receiving the organ to be transplanted is the recipient, and the process of collecting an organ from a donor is known as retrieval or procurement.  Almost anyone in good health can donate an organ.  People with cancer, HIV or disease-causing bacteria in the bloodstream or body tissues are not permitted to donate.  Experts decide whether an organ is fit for use at the time of the donor’s death.  If the donor is living, the final decision is made during the process leading up to the donation.

National Donate Life Month (NDLM) was instituted by Donate Life America and its members in 2003 to help address this tragic situation. In 2010, President Obama officially proclaimed April as National Donate Life Month and called upon “health care professionals, volunteers, educators, government agencies, faith-based and community groups, and private organizations to join forces to boost the number of organ, tissue, blood, and stem cell donors throughout our Nation.”

As an estate planning attorney, I am well aware of the stress families endure while waiting for a loved one to receive a life-saving organ transplant.  When the organ(s) needed are unavailable, the anguish they suffer is heart wrenching.  At Parrish Law, we welcome National Donate Life Month.  If you desire to be a donor and you haven’t made your wishes knows, or if you’ve only put it on your driver’s license, I want to encourage you to fill out an organ donor card to nail down your desire to help others.

I would also like to acknowledge the efforts of participants in the 6th annual National Healthcare Decisions Day, which falls on April 16th.  Both of these initiatives create public awareness about the need for proper planning and the value of properly communicating your health care wishes.

While all advanced directives, including organ donations, are deeply personal decisions, I can’t stress enough the importance of making all of your wishes known in advance.  Sit down with your loved ones while you can to discuss your/their wishes.  It’s much easier when it’s a team effort and everyone’s feelings and wishes are considered and honored.  Next, make sure everything is legal and easy to access during an emergency or in the event of incapacity.  You don’t want to wait until an elderly parent is in the hospital, near death’s door, to figure out what they would want.  If you would like to create a good plan, or you need to make some changes to your existing plan and/or advance health directives, please contact my office at (408)741-3500.  We are here to assist you in any way that we can.

 

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