There are a number of ways in which you can make an anatomical gift, which is a gift of your organs, body parts or your entire body for transplant, therapy, research or education.
Although you can put a clause in your Will or other properly signed and witnessed documents, it is best to sign up on a nonprofit organ donor registry such as the Australian Organ Donor Register.
This registry is a confidential computerised database that documents your wish to be an organ, tissue and/or eye donor. It integrates with the various state Departments of Motor Vehicles to note upon your drivers licence at the time of renewal.
In your medical power of attorney, you could give the power to make an anatomical gift to your medical agent, who would then have the authority to make a gift of all or part of your body in accordance with your previously-expressed wishes.
You may have a concern that your life might be ended prematurely in the interest of harvesting your organs. By law, every effort has to be made to prolong your life in accordance with your wishes, before an anatomical donation is considered. Also by law, the medical team treating you must be separate from the transplant team.
Generally, with the exception of gifts during your own lifetime such as blood, a kidney or bone marrow, body-part recoveries can only be pursued after all life-saving measures have been exhausted and you are officially declared dead.
There are no guarantees with anatomical gifts. Just because you direct that your body or parts be used for transplants, therapy, research or education, does not necessarily make it so. Your anatomical gifts must be examined and be acceptable to the medical school, anatomy department or organ transplant team.
There always is a need for bodies and body parts. There are long waiting lists for people in need of transplants. Even if your eyesight is poor, you may have a good transplantable cornea that could give somebody the gift of sight. You may have skin that can be used to aid a burn victim or bone that could be used for an accident victim.
You might like to check out the following websites:
Rod Genders is a senior Australian lawyer specialising in accident compensation and estate planning in Adelaide. His boutique specialist law firm is one of the oldest and most respected in Australia – visit it at www.genders.com.au . Rod is also a prolific author and speaker. Some of his articles and books on Wills, Probate, Trusts, Estate Planning, Asset Protection and Retirement Planning may be found at www.genders.com.au/adelaide-lawyer-blog.