A Legacy For
Life - Becoming an Organ or Tissue Donor
Copyright 1994 American Bar Association, Reprint
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
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
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,
Funded in part by a grant from The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel Foundation
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