Becoming an organ donor requires more thought than a Facebook click

Facebook recently announced on Good Morning America that users in the U.S. and the U.K. can enroll as organ donors through links to official registries, making it easier for people who want to donate their organs to sign up. They’re working with Donate Life America, a nonprofit alliance of national organizations and state teams across the United States committed to increasing organ, eye and tissue donation.

But deciding to become an organ donor shouldn’t be in the same class of impetuous decisions such as a Facebook click adding a new event to your timeline, “liking” a movie or commenting on a friend’s new post. It’s a very serious decision and is best made in the context of a real-life situation.

And the trouble is, you’re not going to have a seat around the table when your organ donation potential comes up for discussion.

If you have a donor card or have indicated a willingness to donate your organs on your driver’s license — or perhaps on Facebook — the hospital staff will be the ones to decide whether you’re ready to donate your organs. Your family, spouse or life partner will have little or no input.

Under the Uniform Determination of Death Act (UDDA), hospitals set their own standards and protocols to determine if you’re legally alive. There’s a wide variation in protocols, according to a study published in Neurology.  The study concluded: “Adherence to the American Academy of Neurology guidelines is variable … There are substantial differences in practice which may have consequences for the determination of death and initiation of transplant procedures.”

So one hospital may decide you’re “brain dead,” while another would not. Some facilities have transplant teams that stand ready to do transplants. Some do not. A lot may depend on the hospital’s definition and the judgment of people at the scene who are involved in organ transplantation.

I wouldn’t want to say anything that would decrease the number of donations from people who are absolutely — without a doubt — unable to sustain life and willing to donate their bodies to others.  But I haven’t signed a donor card nor indicated on my driver’s license, or a social media site, that I’d like to donate my organs.

Instead, I’ve talked to my husband and children and said, “You know me. If you think I wouldn’t want to keep trying to stay alive and the evidence strongly suggests that I am essentially dead, feel free to donate any parts of me that are worth something to someone else. But do so only to the extent that you, the living, will feel comfortable with the outcome.”

Barbara Bronson Gray is a nurse who blogs at BodBoss.

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