How to Become an Organ Donor

Learn about your state's organ donation laws and how you can become a donor.

Over 100,000 people across the United States are currently waiting for donated organs. To be part of the solution to the ongoing need for donated organs and tissues, take the following steps to become a donor after your death.

How to Become an Organ Donor

1. Sign Up on Your State's Organ Donor Registry

To confirm your intention to be an organ donor, begin by registering with the organ donor database for your state. It takes just a few minutes to register online. After your death, medical personnel will search the state donor registry and easily locate your wish to be a donor.

2. Use Your Driver’s License to Show You Are an Organ Donor

When you get a new driver’s license, you will be asked whether you would like to be an organ donor. If you say yes, your driver’s license will reflect your choice and your information will be forwarded to your state's registry.

3. Include Organ Donation in Your Health Care Power of Attorney

In addition to signing up with your state's 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 health care power of attorney. (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 a health care power of attorney, see Living Wills & Medical Powers of Attorney.

4. Tell Others That You Are an Organ Donor

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 (see your state's statute, below). 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.

These conversations are critical because if you don't document your intention to be an organ donor, your next of kin will make the decision about whether or not to donate your organs.

How to Donate Your Whole Body

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.

For more information about donating your body to science, see the state-specific information in the chart below and review this list of body donation programs in the United States. You can also contact a national whole body donation organization such as Science Care.

If You Don’t Want to Be an Organ Donor

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 health care power of attorney -- 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.

If You Don’t Make the Decision, Who Will?

If you don’t leave instructions about organ donation, state 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 generally goes to, in this order: your health care agent (if you named one), spouse, adult children, parents, siblings, and then increasingly distant relatives determined by the laws of your state (see the state chart below).

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.

Organ Donation Information by State

Alabama

State registry: Legacy of Hope

Driver’s License Information: Alabama Code Title 22 Health, Mental Health and Environmental Control § 22-19-70

Right to have wishes honored: Alabama Code Title 22 Health, Mental Health and Environmental Control § 22-19-167

Right not to donate: Alabama Code Title 22 Health, Mental Health and Environmental Control § 22-19-166

Who decides: Alabama Code Title 22 Health, Mental Health and Environmental Control § 22-19-168

Whole body donation: University of Alabama, Science Care

Alaska

State registry: Life Alaska

Driver’s License Information: Alaska Driver Manual

Right to have wishes honored: Alaska Code § 13-52-193

Right not to donate: Alaska Code § 13-52-187

Who decides: Alaska Code § 13-52-197

Whole body donation: Science Care

Arkansas

State registry: Donate Life Arkansas

Driver’s License Information: Arkansas Driver Manual

Right to have wishes honored: Arkansas Code § 20-17-1208.

Right not to donate: Arkansas Code § 20-17-1207

Who decides: Arkansas Code § 20-17-1209

Whole body donation: Arkansas Colleges of Health Education, Science Care

Arizona

State registry: Donate Life Arizona

Driver’s License Information: Organ Donation Program at ADOT

Right to have wishes honored: Arizona Revised Statutes § 36-846

Right not to donate: Arizona Revised Statutes § 36-847

Who decides: Arizona Revised Statutes § 36-848

Whole body donation: University of Arizona Willed Body Program

California

State registry: Donate Life California

Driver’s License Information: California Driver Handbook

Right to have wishes honored: California Health & Safety Code § 7150.35

Right not to donate: California Health & Safety Code § 7150.25

Who decides: California Health & Safety Code § 7150.40

Whole body donation: Science Care

Colorado

State registry: Donate Life Colorado

Driver’s License Information: Colorado Department of Revenue Division of Motor Vehicles

Right to have wishes honored: Colorado Revised Statutes § 15-19-205

Right not to donate: Colorado Revised Statutes § 15-19-207

Who decides: Colorado Revised Statutes § 15-19-209

Whole body donation: University of Colorado Denver, Science Care

Connecticut

State registry: Donate Life Connecticut

Driver’s License Information: Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles

Right to have wishes honored: Connecticut Code § 19a-289g

Right not to donate: Connecticut Code § 19a-289f

Who decides: Connecticut Code § 19a-289h

Whole body donation: Science Care

Delaware

State registry: Donate Life Delaware

Driver’s License Information: Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles

Right to have wishes honored: Delaware Code § 2711(f) and (g)

Right not to donate: Delaware Code § 2711(c) and (d)

Who decides: Delaware Code § 2711(c)

Whole body donation: Science Care

District of Columbia

State registry: Donate Life D.C.

Driver’s License Information: District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles

Right to have wishes honored: D.C. Code § 7-1531.07

Right not to donate: D.C. Code § 7-1531.06

Who decides: D.C. Code § 7-1531.08

Whole body donation: Science Care

Florida

State registry: Donate Life Florida

Driver’s License Information: Florida Driver’s Handbook

Right to have wishes honored: Florida Statutes § 765.512(b)

Right not to donate: Florida Statutes § 765.512(3) and (4)

Who decides: Florida Statutes § 765.512(2) and (3)

Whole body donation: Science Care

Georgia

State registry: Donate Life Georgia

Driver’s License Information: Georgia Department of Driver Services

Right to have wishes honored: Georgia Code § 44-5-146

Right not to donate: Georgia Code § 44-5-145

Who decides: Georgia Code § 44-5-147

Whole body donation: Science Care

Hawaii

State registry: Legacy of Life Hawaii

Driver’s License Information: Hawaii Driver’s Manual

Right to have wishes honored: Hawaii Revised Statutes § 327-8

Right not to donate: Hawaii Revised Statutes § 327-7

Who decides: Hawaii Revised Statutes § 327-9

Whole body donation: Science Care

Idaho

State registry: Yes! Idaho Organ Donor Registry

Driver’s License Information: Idaho Driver’s Handbook

Right to have wishes honored: Idaho Statutes § 39-3408

Right not to donate: Idaho Statutes § 39-3407

Who decides: Idaho Statutes § 39-3409

Whole body donation: Science Care

Illinois

State registry: Donate Life Illinois, Illinois Organ/Tissue Donor Registry

Driver’s License Information: Illinois Rules of the Road

Right to have wishes honored: 755 ILCS § 50/5-7

Right not to donate: 755 ILCS § 50/5-43

Who decides: 755 ILCS § 50/5-5

Whole body donation: Science Care

Indiana

State registry: Donate Life Indiana

Driver’s License Information: Indiana Driver’s Manual

Right to have wishes honored: Indiana Code § 29-2-16.1-7

Right not to donate: Indiana Code § 29-2-16.1-6

Who decides: Indiana Code § 29-2-16.1-8

Whole body donation: Science Care

Iowa

State registry: Iowa Donor Registry

Driver’s License Information: Iowa Driver’s Manual

Right to have wishes honored: Iowa Code § 142C.3.5

Right not to donate: Iowa Code § 142C.3.4

Who decides: Iowa Code § 142C.4

Whole body donation: Science Care

Kansas

State registry: Donate Life Kansas

Driver’s License Information: Kansas Driver’s Manual

Right to have wishes honored: Kansas Statutes § 65-3227

Right not to donate: Kansas Statutes § 65-3226

Who decides: Kansas Statutes § 65-3228

Whole body donation: Science Care

Kentucky

State registry: Donate Life Kentucky

Driver’s License Information: Kentucky Driver Manual

Right to have wishes honored: Kentucky Statutes § 311.1923

Right not to donate: Kentucky Statutes § 311.1921

Who decides: Kentucky Statutes § 311.1925

Whole body donation: Science Care

Louisiana

State registry: Donate Life Louisiana

Driver’s License Information: Louisiana Driver’s Guide

Right to have wishes honored: Louisiana Revised Statutes §17:2354-2

Right not to donate: Louisiana Revised Statutes §17:2354-1

Who decides: Louisiana Revised Statutes §17:2354.3

Whole body donation: Science Care

Maine

State registry: Donate Life Maine

Driver’s License Information: Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles

Right to have wishes honored: Maine Revised Statutes § 2948

Right not to donate: Maine Revised Statutes § 2947

Who decides: Maine Revised Statutes § 2949

Whole body donation: Science Care

Maryland

State registry: Donate Life Maryland

Driver’s License Information: Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration

Right to have wishes honored: Maryland Estates & Trusts Code § 4-506

Right not to donate: Maryland Estates & Trusts Code § 4-505

Who decides: Maryland Estates & Trusts Code § 4-507

Whole body donation: Science Care

Massachusetts

State registry: Donate Life New England

Driver’s License Information: Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles

Right to have wishes honored: Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 113A § 8

Right not to donate: Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 113A § 7

Who decides: Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 113A § 9

Whole body donation: Science Care

Michigan

State registry: Gift of Life Michigan

Driver’s License Information: Michigan Secretary of State

Right to have wishes honored: Michigan Compiled Laws § 333.10108

Right not to donate: Michigan Compiled Laws § 333.10107

Who decides: Michigan Compiled Laws § 333.10109

Whole body donation: Science Care

Minnesota

State registry: Donate Life Minnesota

Driver’s License Information: Minnesota Driver’s Manual

Right to have wishes honored: Minnesota Statutes § 525A.08

Right not to donate: Minnesota Statutes § 525A.07

Who decides: Minnesota Statutes § 525A.09

Whole body donation: Science Care

Mississippi

State registry: Donate Life Mississippi

Driver’s License Information: Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency

Right to have wishes honored: Mississippi Code § 41-39-115

Right not to donate: Mississippi Code § 41-39-113

Who decides: Mississippi Code § 41-39-117

Whole body donation: Science Care

Missouri

State registry: Donate Life Missouri

Driver’s License Information: Missouri Driver Guide

Right to have wishes honored: Missouri Revised Statutes § 194.240

Right not to donate: Missouri Revised Statutes § 194.235

Who decides: Missouri Revised Statutes § 194.245

Whole body donation: Science Care

Montana

State registry: Donate Life Montana

Driver’s License Information: Montana Department of Justice Motor Vehicles Division

Right to have wishes honored: Montana Code Annotated § 72-17-201(13)

Right not to donate: Montana Code Annotated § 72-17-201(14)

Who decides: Montana Code Annotated § 72-17-214

Whole body donation: Science Care

Nebraska

State registry: Live on Nebraska

Driver’s License Information: Nebraska Driver’s Manual

Right to have wishes honored: Nebraska Revised Statutes § 71-4831

Right not to donate: Nebraska Revised Statutes § 71-4830

Who decides: Nebraska Revised Statutes § 71-4832

Whole body donation: Science Care

Nevada

State registry: Nevada Donor Network

Driver’s License Information: Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles

Right to have wishes honored: Nevada Revised Statutes § 451.562

Right not to donate: Nevada Revised Statutes § 451.561

Who decides: Nevada Revised Statutes § 451.566

Whole body donation: Science Care

New Hampshire

State registry: Donate Life New England

Driver’s License Information: New Hampshire Department of Safety Division of Motor Vehicles

Right to have wishes honored: New Hampshire Revised Statutes § 291-A:8

Right not to donate: New Hampshire Revised Statutes § 291-A:7

Who decides: New Hampshire Revised Statutes § 291-A:9

Whole body donation: Science Care

New Jersey

State registry: Donate Life New Jersey

Driver’s License Information: New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission

Right to have wishes honored: New Jersey Statutes § 26:6-84

Right not to donate: New Jersey Statutes § 26:6-83

Who decides: New Jersey Statutes § 26:6-85

Whole body donation: Science Care

New Mexico

State registry: Donate Life New Mexico

Driver’s License Information: New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division

Right to have wishes honored: New Mexico Statutes § 24-6B-8

Right not to donate: New Mexico Statutes § 24-6B-7

Who decides: New Mexico Statutes § 24-6B-9

Whole body donation: Science Care

New York

State registry: Donate Life New York State

Driver’s License Information: New York Department of Motor Vehicles

Right to have wishes honored: New York Public Health Law § 4301(1)

Right not to donate: New York Public Health Law § 4301(2)

Who decides: New York Public Health Law § 4301(2)

Whole body donation: Science Care

North Carolina

State registry: Donate Life North Carolina

Driver’s License Information: North Carolina Driver Handbook

Right to have wishes honored: North Carolina General Statutes § 130A-412.10

Right not to donate: North Carolina General Statutes § 130A-412.9

Who decides: North Carolina General Statutes § 130A-412.11

Whole body donation: Science Care

North Dakota

State registry: Donate Life North Dakota

Driver’s License Information: North Dakota Department of Transportation

Right to have wishes honored: North Dakota Code § 23-06.6-07

Right not to donate: North Dakota Code § 23-06.6-06

Who decides: North Dakota Code § 23-06.6-08

Whole body donation: Science Care

Ohio

State registry: Donate Life Ohio

Driver’s License Information: Digest of Ohio Motor Vehicle Laws

Right to have wishes honored: Ohio Revised Code § 2108.08

Right not to donate: Ohio Revised Code § 2108.07

Who decides: Ohio Revised Code § 2108.09

Whole body donation: Science Care

Oklahoma

State registry: LifeShare Donor Registry for Oklahoma

Driver’s License Information: Oklahoma Driver’s Manual

Right to have wishes honored: Oklahoma Statutes § 2200.8A

Right not to donate: Oklahoma Statutes § 2200.7A

Who decides: Oklahoma Statutes § 2200.9A

Whole body donation: Science Care

Oregon

State registry: Donate Life Northwest

Driver’s License Information: Oregon Driver & Motor Vehicle Services

Right to have wishes honored: Oregon Revised Statutes § 97.963

Right not to donate: Oregon Revised Statutes § 97.961

Who decides: Oregon Revised Statutes § 97.965

Whole body donation: Science Care

Pennsylvania

State registry: Donate Life Pennsylvania

Driver’s License Information: Pennsylvania Driver’s Manual

Right to have wishes honored: Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes § 8611

Right not to donate: Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes § 8611(b)

Who decides: Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes § 8611(b)

Whole body donation: Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes § 8611(a), Science Care

Rhode Island

State registry: Donate Life Rhode Island

Driver’s License Information: Rhode Island Driver’s Manual

Right to have wishes honored: Rhode Island Statutes § 23-18.6.1-8

Right not to donate: Rhode Island Statutes § 23-18.6.1-7

Who decides: Rhode Island Statutes § 23-18.6.1-9

Whole body donation: Science Care

South Carolina

State registry: Donate Life South Carolina

Driver’s License Information: South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles

Right to have wishes honored: South Carolina Code § 44-43-335

Right not to donate: South Carolina Code § 44-43-330

Who decides: South Carolina Code § 44-43-340

Whole body donation: Science Care

South Dakota

State registry: Donate Life Midwest

Driver’s License Information: South Dakota Department of Public Safety

Right to have wishes honored: South Dakota Codified Laws § 34-26-55

Right not to donate: South Dakota Codified Laws § 34-26-54

Who decides: South Dakota Codified Laws § 34-26-56

Whole body donation: Science Care

Tennessee

State registry: Donate Life Tennessee

Driver’s License Information: Tennessee Driver’s License Manual

Right to have wishes honored: Tennessee Code § 68-30-108

Right not to donate: Tennessee Code § 68-30-107

Who decides: Tennessee Code § 68-30-109

Whole body donation: Science Care

Texas

State registry: Donate Life Texas

Driver’s License Information: Texas Department of Public Safety Driver License Division

Right to have wishes honored: Texas Code § 692A.008

Right not to donate: Texas Code § 692A.007

Who decides: Texas Code § 692A.009

Whole body donation: Science Care

Utah

State registry: Yes! Utah Donor Registry

Driver’s License Information: Utah Driver Handbook

Right to have wishes honored: Utah Code § 26-28-108

Right not to donate: Utah Code § 26-28-107

Who decides: Utah Code § 26-28-109

Whole body donation: Science Care

Vermont

State registry: Donate Life Vermont

Driver’s License Information: Vermont Driver’s Manual

Right to have wishes honored: Vermont Statutes § 5250h

Right not to donate: Vermont Statutes § 5250g

Who decides: Vermont Statutes § 5250i

Whole body donation: Science Care

Virginia

State registry: Donate Life Virginia

Driver’s License Information: Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles

Right to have wishes honored: Virginia Code § 32.1-291.8

Right not to donate: Virginia Code § 32.1-291.7

Who decides: Virginia Code § 32.1-291.9

Whole body donation: Science Care

Washington

State registry: Donate Life Northwest

Driver’s License Information: Washington State Department of Licensing

Right to have wishes honored: RCW § 68.64.070

Right not to donate: RCW § 68.64.060

Who decides: RCW § 68.64.080

Whole body donation: Science Care

West Virginia

State registry: Donate Life West Virginia

Driver’s License Information: West Virginia Driver’s Licensing Handbook

Right to have wishes honored: West Virginia Code § 16-19-8

Right not to donate: West Virginia Code § 16-19-7

Who decides: West Virginia Code § 16-19-9

Whole body donation: Science Care

Wisconsin

State registry: Donate Life Wisconsin

Driver’s License Information: Wisconsin Department of Transportation

Right to have wishes honored: Wisconsin Statutes § 157.06(8)

Right not to donate: Wisconsin Statutes § 157.06(7)

Who decides: Wisconsin Statutes § 157.06(9)

Whole body donation: Science Care

Wyoming

State registry: Donate Life Wyoming

Driver’s License Information: Wyoming Driver License Manual

Right to have wishes honored: Wyoming Statutes § 35-5-208

Right not to donate: Wyoming Statutes § 35-5-207

Who decides: Wyoming Statutes § 35-5-209

Whole body donation: Science Care

For More Information

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.

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