What You Should Know about Organ and Tissue Donation

​​ ​Approximately 29,500 organ transplants were performed in the United States in 2014; just under 6,00 of those were from living donors. Another one million Americans receive donor tissue each year through reconstructive, restorative and cosmetic surgeries. Nevertheless, in December 2015, more than 123,000 individuals were waiting for life-saving organ transplants. Sadly, 22 Americans die every day waiting for a needed organ. To help meet the need for organ and tissue donors, the Ohio legislature has passed several pieces of legislation to increase the dissemination of information about organ and tissue donation, make it easy for Ohioans to become donors and provide workplace incentives for employees who serve as living donors.

Q:  What organs and tissues can be donated?
A:  Organs that can be donated include the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas and small intestine. Tissues that can be donated include skin, bone, ligaments, tendons, fascia, veins, heart valves and corneas. If you wish to donate your entire body, you must contact the medical school of your choice to declare your intent. Restrictions to the organs or tissues you wish to donate can be made online at www.bmv.ohio.gov or through the brochure available at Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) offices.

Q:  I’m an Ohio resident. How can I register as a donor?
A:  Ohio established the Ohio Donor Registry in July 2002. The registry’s database is maintained by the Ohio BMV, and allows only organ, tissue and eye procurement organizations access 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Your registration as a donor is an “advance authorization” for your organs, tissues and/or eyes, if usable, to be recovered upon your death. You can declare your wish to become a donor when receiving your driver’s license or state identification card at the BMV, by registering online at www.bmv.ohio.gov​, or by completing the Donor Registry Enrollment Form available online at www.bmv.ohio.gov or available in a brochure at BMV offices. In addition to registering your intent, you should discuss your wishes with your family. A minor who is at least 15 1/2 years old may register without parental consent, but a parent can amend or revoke the minor’s decision after the minor’s death.

Q:  How might my donated organs or tissues be used?
A:  Under Ohio law, an anatomical gift may be used for transplantation, therapy, research or education. All of these possible uses are listed on the Ohio Donor Registry Enrollment Form. If any of these possible uses is objectionable to you, you should you should specify the uses that are acceptable on the online or paper form.

Q:  How are life-saving organs allocated?
A:  The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) maintains a national, computerized list of more than 123,000 patients awaiting kidney, heart, lung, liver, intestine, small bowel and pancreas transplants. Donors are matched against the list of transplant candidates before an organ is offered for transplantation. Specific information about a donor is entered into the UNOS computer by an organ procurement organization. The computer first rules out potential recipients who are not compatible for blood type and body size. The computer then calculates a rank order for each remaining patient on the list. A patient's priority point score is determined by a number of variables including medical urgency, time waiting, and the degree of match with the donor. The UNOS computer does not consider race, income, or social status when determining potential recipients. The offer for the available organ is then made by the organ procurement organization to the identified patient’s transplant center.

Q:  How does Ohio legislation increase the dissemination of information about donation?
A:  House Bill 407, passed in July 2002, requires students who attend driver’s education courses in public schools or private enterprises to receive education about organ, tissue and eye donation.

Q:  How does legislation encourage employees to become donors?
A:  Through the Ohio Donor Leave Act (House Bill 326), effective February 2002, any state employee can receive up to 30 days of paid leave to serve as a living organ donor and up to seven days of paid leave to serve as a bone marrow donor. This law also requires information about liver, kidney and bone marrow donation leave benefits to be provided periodically to state employees. In addition, this Act encourages political subdivisions and private employers to grant similar paid leave to their employees.

House Bill 119, enacted in 2007, allows any Ohioan who is a living kidney, liver, pancreas, intestine, lung or bone marrow donor to take a one-time state tax deduction of up to $10,000 for qualified expenses associated with the donation, and not covered by recipient’s insurance. Expenses can include travel expenses, lodging expenses and lost wages.

Also, programs have been developed to help corporations raise awareness among employees about organ and tissue donation. Your local organ procurement organization (OPO) has free materials for use in the workplace. For more information, contact your local OPO through www.donatelifeohio.org.

12/1/2015

This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA). It was prepared by the Ohio State Bar Association, reviewed by Sen. Bill Seitz, and updated by Marilyn Pongonis, director of communications for Lifeline of Ohio. 

Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney.

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