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To Our Children Section

A Legacy For Life - Becoming an Organ or Tissue Donor

Copyright 1994 American Bar Association, Reprint Rights Granted

Why Consider Organ and Tissue Donation?

Because of a woman named Cathy, who was diagnosed with bone cancer as a teenager. Cathy survived her cancer, but she suffered severe heart damage from the cancer-fighting drugs she took. To stay alive, she would need a heart transplant. One of the lucky ones, Cathy received a new heart. In February 1993, she gave birth to her first child.

Because of a little girl named Sara, who was diagnosed with an enlarged ear when she was only six months old. Doctors warned that she would never see her first Christmas without a heart transplant, that such a procedure had never been performed on an infant as young as Sara. Miraculously, Sara got the heart she needed. Today, she lives the life of a normal eight-year old.

More than 35,000 people like Cathy and Sara are waiting for a second chance at life through an organ transplant. Tragically, nearly a third won't live long enough to be matched with an organ donor. This is because individuals and their families did not consider organ donation -- our of fear, ignorance or misunderstanding.

The American Bar Association and other professional and civic associations are helping to increase awareness and understanding of the benefits of organ/tissue donation. This brochure provides you with some basic facts about organ/tissue donation and tells you how you may become a donor.

Transplants Give Thousands Each Year Second Change at Life

Some 18,000 organ transplants are performed in the U.S.A. each year. Organs that are transplanted successfully include the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and pancreas.

In addition, tissue grafts are becoming widely used by doctors in the fields of orthopedic surgery, cardiovascular surgery, plastic surgery, dentistry and podiatry. From repairing severe fractures and degenerative conditions to helping increase the chances of survival for burn victims, tissue grafts are saving lives. More than 400 people each month receive the gift of sight through yet another type of tissue donation -- corneal transplants. In many cases, donors unsuitable for organ donation are eligible for tissue donation.

Years of experience and major advances in science, medicine and technology have made it possible to perform many successful transplants. But all the sophisticated medical technology is useless if there are not enough people willing to become organ and tissue donors.

The Lawyer's Role in Organ/Tissue Donation

ABA member attorneys are trusted advisors to their clients. Through organ/tissue donation, attorneys can help clients bequeath the gift of life. Probate and estate planning lawyers, in particular, should consider making organ/tissue donation a routine topic for discussion with their clients.

By helping clients who want to become organ and tissue donors memorialize their wish, attorneys will serve both their clients and the community.

However, an attorney will want to address the concerns clients typically have regarding the donation process.

Text by Steve Barnill & Company, Inc. Houston, Texas

Funded in part by a grant from The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel Foundation


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