Musings of a Chicago-Born New Yorker

So You’ve Signed Up to Be A Donor

In Illinois, we have a donor registry. That registry allows people to sign up any number of ways. They ask you at the DMV if you want to be a donor. There are donation drives at colleges. All sorts of ways.

When you sign up, they may or may not explain what that means. I’m here to let you know what it means. When you sign up to be a donor in Illinois, you’re saying that when you die (brain or cardiac death), you want all elligible organs and tissues donated for transplantation.

Some states are different, you can sign up for transplantation and medical education/research. In other countries, there’s even registries where you have to opt out if you are against it as opposed to signing up if you are for it. But in Illinois, it’s fairly simple. If you want to donate, simply say yes and get it put on your license.

But oh no, it’s not that simple. Your family can fuck up your final wishes. I talk to far too many families who are made aware of their loved one’s wishes and decide they don’t care. How sefish can you be to be fully aware of your son’s/husband’s/sister’s final wishes and just say you don’t care?

Death is hard and everyone doesn’t handle it well. But it’s just not fair. The consent affidavit is supposed to be a legally binding document. You make the decision for yourself so your family doesn’t have to. That’s the theory at least.

But families refuse to go through the paperwork. In this especially litigious and disease-ridden state, we don’t move forward with donation without consent paperwork by the family saying they acknowledge their loved one’s wishes. And we really can’t move forward without a medical and social history questionnaire that the next-of-kin must fill out.

If you have signed up to be a donor, make sure your family knows. Make sure there is someone who might be around in the case of your death who can fight for your right to decide what happens to your body after you die.

I am sad for the families that lose loved ones. But I’m more sad for the people who die and never get a chance to fulfill their request for what happens to their remains.

It’s hard not to get angry at someone who loses a family member and then only thinks of themself. It’s especially worse when the deceased was elligible to donate so many things. It’s not fair and frankly, it’s fucked up.

I’ve made sure to discuss exactly what I want to happen to me in the case of my death to the fiancé and my parents. I don’t want to risk one of them being so unstable at the time of my death that they can’t honor my wishes.

Being a donor is supposed to ensure your wishes are met. Make sure your family understands that. And if your family member has signed up to be a donor, the least you can do is honor their wishes after the death. It’s really the least you could do.

4 responses

  1. Thanks for reminding me about this. I will definitely have to make sure there is a statement included about being a donor in my will. My whole family has agreed to be donors so we all know where we stand.

    January 27, 2012 at 12:45

    • It’s great that you’ve discussed this with your family. Putting it in your will is also a great idea. But in most cases, by the time they trot the will out, it’s already past the window for donation. The best way to ensure your wishes are met is by talking to your family AND close friends so they’re all aware (in case your family can’t be reached). Also, if your state lists your donor status on your ID card, always carry your ID with you.

      January 27, 2012 at 23:07

  2. This post makes some good points. I signed up to be a full donor at 16 and have remained ever since. I know its a tough decision to make, but an important one!!


    January 28, 2012 at 07:05

    • 16? Nice. In Illinois, they’ll let you sign up as soon as you get a license, but unfortunately, it’s not legally binding until you’re 18.

      January 28, 2012 at 23:16