Law You Can Use

What You Should Know about Organ and Tissue Donation

Contributed by the Ohio State Bar Asssociation

Approximately 28,000 organ transplants were performed in the United States in 2010; just over 6,600 of those were from living donors. Another one million Americans receive donor tissue each year through reconstructive, restorative and cosmetic surgeries. Nevertheless, in January 2011, more than 110,000 individuals were waiting for life-saving organ transplants. 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.

What organs and tissues can be donated?
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.

I’m an Ohio resident. How can I register as a donor?
Ohio established the Ohio Donor Registry in July 2002. The registry’s database is maintained by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, 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 directive” 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 renewing your driver’s license or state identification card at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV), by registering online at www.ohiobmv.com, or by completing the Donor Registry Enrollment Form available online at www.ohiobmv.com 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-and-a-half years old may register without parental consent, but a parent can amend or revoke the minor’s decision after the minor’s death.

How are life-saving organs allocated?
The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) maintains a national, computerized list of more than 110,000 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.

How does legislation encourage employees to become donors?
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.
In 2007, House Bill 119 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.

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 Rep. 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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