Attorneys play an important role in helping clients to document their end-of-life decisions. They serve as guides in choosing healthcare decision makers and setting up advance directives. One area of end-of-life planning that occasionally gets missed though is the discussion around organ, eye, and tissue donation.
As an attorney you have a unique opportunity to play an important role in fostering organ, eye, and tissue donation.
It is our hope that as you discuss end-of-life matters with your clients, that you also explain to them why life-saving donation, a truly meaningful legacy, is a matter that they should seriously consider.
The statements expressed in this section are solely intended for educational and informational purposes. These statements do not represent nor are they intended to represent legal advice.
Role of Attorneys in Fostering Donation
New York State Donate Life Registry: New York’s Routine Referral Law mandates that hospital personnel alert an organ procurement organization (OPO) — such as ConnectLife— for every imminent death and death. When ConnectLife is notified, the New York State Donate Life Registry is consulted by authorized personnel to determine if the individual had enrolled.
Attorneys can play a key role in increasing organ, eye, and tissue donation by educating clients on the full implications of the New York State Donate Life Registry. It was established in 2006 and, as of 2008, records an individual’s legal consent to organ, tissue, and eye donation upon death.
There are several other methods for consenting to organ, eye, and tissue donation in New York State that have equal legal validity. These methods include placing a provision in a person’s:
Last Will & Testament
Health Care Proxy
However, these methods are not as valuable as enrolling on the Donate Life Registry. When a decision on donation must be made, next-of-kin or other authorized persons may not be able to locate a Will, or may overlook a Health Care Proxy. Clients should make sure that Executors and next-of-kin know the location of the client’s key documents.
Do Not Resuscitate
Finally, it is important to correct a fallacious belief that a “Do Not Resuscitate” order precludes the possibility of donation.
ConnectLife invites you to use the following article for your newsletter, e-newsletter, or on your website:
WHEN TAKING CARE OF YOUR ESTATE AND END-OF-LIFE PLANNING, MAKE THE DECISION TO BE AN ORGAN, EYE, AND TISSUE DONOR
None of us like to consider our own mortality. But as your legal advisor, I (OR NAME OF FIRM) would be remiss if I (WE) didn’t draw your attention to the importance of taking care of the future.
Why wait for events to unfold leaving unfinished business, your financial affairs left to others to sort out, and your loved ones unsure of what your end-of-life medical wishes are? After all, no matter how well your family members may know you, isn’t it unfair to anticipate that they can “read your mind?”
While you are capable of doing so, I (WE) urge you to take care of your estate-planning basics and the so-called “Advance Medical Directives.” These include:
Drawing up a Will
Taking out a life insurance policy to provide income in the event of your death
Getting disability insurance
Naming a durable power of attorney, an individual who can manage your financial decisions if you are unable to
Selecting a Health Care Proxy so that someone you trust can make medical decisions for you if you are incapacitated
I (WE/NAME OF FIRM) can sit down with you and help you to ask the right questions so that you can sensibly take care of these serious matters.
Consider organ, eye, and tissue, donation:
At the same time, when you make the wise decision to take control of your life’s end before someone else is forced to do so, it is appropriate for you to consider how you can share your love of life with others through donation.
More than 118,000 people are waiting for a transplant in the United States, and over 10,000 of them are from New York State. Thousands more need tissues such as skin, bone, and heart-valves as well as corneas.
Only 35% of eligible New Yorkers have signed up to be organ donor, compared with a national average of 54%.
Did you know that one donor can save up to 8 lives through organ donation, and another 75 lives can be saved or healed by tissue donation?
So while you are securing the fiscal future of those you love, and taking control of your medical advance directives, I (WE/NAME OF FIRM) can assist you in having your questions about organ donation answered. For instance, I (WE) can explain to you why, in New York State, the Donate Life Registry is the single most important way of registering to be a donor.
I (WE) suggest you review the website of ConnectLife at www.ConnectLife.org, the nonprofit federally-designated organ procurement organization for the eight counties of WNY. After you have done so, I (WE) invite you to call or stop by so that we can ensure that your decision to celebrate your life by being a donor is legally implemented.
How Your Clients Should Register to Be a Donor
When meeting with your clients and discussing the importance of organ donation, you may be asked:
“How can I document that I want to be a donor?”
“Should I sign my driver’s license?”
“Should I sign a donor card? Should I just tell my next-of-kin?”
The most effective way for your New York State clients to authorize their consent to be donors is to enroll in the New York State Donate Life Registry. This is the confidential database administered by the New York State Department of Health that records legally binding consent for organ, eye, and tissue donation.
There are a number of convenient options that allow someone to register to be a donor:
Register through ConnectLife at ConnectLife.org/Register
Request that a free registry enrollment card be mailed to you. Send an e-mail with your name, the name of your firm, your mailing address, contact phone number, and the number of brochures required to Sarah Diina at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 716.529.4351.
Visit a local DMV office
ConnectLife invites attorneys who wish to find out more about organ, eye and tissue donation and the New York State Donate Life Registry, or to assist us in educating attorneys about donation, to contact us.
We can provide you with free materials, including New York State Donate Life Registry enrollment cards and ConnectLife brochures.