Becoming an Organ and Tissue Donor

Organ and tissue donation saves and improves lives every day. While the number of transplants increases annually, there remains a critical shortage of transplantable organs and tissue.

The Mississippi Anatomical Gift Law provides the legal requirements to become an organ and tissue donor. Having a provision in your will, signing the back of your driver's license, or signing a Uniform Donor Card in the presence of two witnesses plus carrying the card in your wallet is the best way to ensure your wishes are fulfilled.

Any competent person 18 years or older may be a donor. Parents may donate on behalf of a deceased minor child. Donations may include all needed organs and tissues, specific organs and tissues only, or your entire body for medical research. Transplantable organs include kidneys, lungs, hearts, livers and corneas. Donated skin and other tissues may help burn victims. Distribution of the organs and tissue occurs according to both the need and compatibility of the donor and recipients.

Being an organ donor does not affect any treatment a person receives when ill or in the hospital. The donation cannot occur until every measure has been taken to save the donor's life and the person is declared medically and legally dead by the donor's physician. In addition, the law prohibits the donor's physician from being a member of the transplant team.

You may change your mind about being a donor at any time by signing a written revocation, giving a verbal revocation to your physician and two witnesses, or by tearing up your donor card.

The family does not incur any cost for donating a loved one's organs and tissue nor does it receive any payment for the donation. The donation does not delay funeral arrangements or disfigure the donor's body.

Unless a person declared prior to his death that he did not want to be a donor, certain family members can decide to donate the deceased's organs and tissues. The order of family members who can make that decision is the following: 1) the surviving spouse; 2) an adult son or daughter; 3) either parent; 4) an adult brother or sister; 5) the guardian of the deceased; and 6) any other person or agency authorized to dispose of the body.

Becoming an organ and tissue donor is simple and gives the gift of life to numerous people. Making that decision and informing your family and physician can ensure your wishes will be honored.

For more information, contact the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency, Inc. at 601-933-1000.