Organ Donation--Not Just a Yes or No Choice

When you go the DMV for a drivers license, you might check a box regarding organ donation. At the DMV in Virginia, organ donation is a yes or no question. You either check the box to become a donor or leave to box blank to not to become a donor (but note that preventing the donation of your organs isn't as simple as not checking the box). 

If you wish, you can express more specific wishes regarding organ donation in the Virginia donor registry by going to https://www.donatelifevirginia.org/. You can choose which organs to donate, the purposes for which your organs can be used, and who will receive a gift of your organs (with certain limitations). If you have wishes more specific than the registry will permit you to express, an attorney can assist you in implementing your wishes.

Choosing recipients

On the registry website, you can't choose recipients for anatomical gifts. A lawyer can assist you with naming recipients.

Note that there are some restrictions on who you can name:

You can make a gift of an anatomical part to an individual if that person will receive the organ in a transplant. If that person can't receive the organ, by default the organ will still be donated. If you want the organ to go to a named recipient or else not be donated, you should make sure your lawyer is aware of this.

You can also name specific institutions (like a hospital or accredited medical school) to receive anatomical parts for research or educational purposes.

Choosing purposes

If you give parts without naming a person or purpose, the gift may be used for transplantation, therapy, research and education. Transplantation and therapy take precedence over the other uses under the default rules.

Under Virginia law, you can limit the purposes for which your organs are used (transplantation, therapy, research or education). In the online registry, you can specify the purposes for which you wish to donate each of the listed organs.

Note that if you limit your gift to specific purposes using the registry, someone else (your agent, your guardian, or a relative) might be able broaden your gift.

Choosing parts

"Parts" you can give as anatomical gifts are organs, eyes, and tissues. (Note: If you want to donate your whole body to science, you'll need to look into your state's anatomical program. Here's Virginia's program. This is different from organ donation and the donor registry.)

The Virginia donor registry allows you to specify wishes regarding certain organs and tissues. Organs as to which wishes can be specified online are the heart, kidney, liver, lungs, pancreas and small bowel. Tissues as to which wishes can be specified online are the eyes, bones, connective tissue, heart valves, pericardium, saphenous vein, and skin.

Why specify these wishes?

It's up to you whether or not to get specific with your organ donation wishes. It's a personal choice.