Thousands of Alaska residents have benefited from organ and tissue donation. To be part of the solution to the ongoing need for donated organs and tissues, take the following steps to become an Alaska organ donor after your death.
To confirm your intention to be an organ donor, begin by signing up with the Alaska Donor Registry. It takes just a few minutes to register online, or you can download a registration form to submit through the mail. After your death, medical personnel will search the state donor registry and easily locate your wish to be a donor.
When you get a new driver’s license in Alaska, you will be asked whether you would like to be an organ and tissue donor. If you say yes, both your license and your DMV record will reflect your choice. (For more information, see the Alaska Driver Manual.)
In addition to signing up with the Alaska state organ donor registry and using your driver’s license to indicate that you want to be an organ donor, it’s a good idea to include your desire to donate in your important estate planning documents, especially your advance health care directive. (It’s not always helpful to include your organ donation wishes in your will, because it may not be found and read until it is too late to donate.) Covering these bases helps to ensure that your wishes will be known and followed.
For additional information about making an advance health care directive, see Alaska Living Wills and Advance Health Care Directives: What You Need to Know.
If you’ve documented your wishes to be an organ and tissue donor, your wishes must be honored whether or not others agree with your choice. (Alaska Statutes § 13.52.193.) Nevertheless, to avoid confusion or delays, it’s important to tell others that you feel strongly about donating your organs. Consider discussing the matter with family members, your health care providers, your clergyperson if you have one, and close friends.
If you don’t document your intention to be an organ donor, these conversations are critical, because your next of kin will make the decision about whether or not to donate your organs. (See below.)
Many medical schools and other institutions seek donations of whole bodies for research and instruction. You can make arrangements to donate your body to science by directly contacting an interested medical school or whole body donation organization.
Currently, there are no medical schools in Alaska seeking whole body donations (see the list of body donation programs in the United States) but you can contact a national whole body donation organization, such as the Life Legacy Foundation, to see whether there may be other interested research programs.
If for any reason you feel strongly that you do not want to be an organ donor, you should put those wishes in writing. If you don’t, your family members may consent to the donation of your organs after your death.
Write down your instructions in a signed, dated document -- perhaps in your advance health care directive -- and be sure your family and health care providers know that you choose not to be an organ donor. If they know your wishes, they are legally barred from donating any part of your body. (Alaska Statutes § 13.52.187.)
If you don’t leave instructions about organ donation, Alaska law decides who will make the decision for you after your death. When a minor dies, the right to decide about organ donation goes to the child’s parents. For adults, the right goes to the following people, in order:
If you have any concerns that the right to make decisions about donating your organs would go to a person other than the one you would choose, don’t procrastinate: Take the time to document your own decision about organ donation.
To learn more about organ donation, see the website of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at OrganDonor.gov.
Also, learn more estate planning, organ donation, funerals, and memorials on the Getting Your Affairs in Order section of Nolo.com.