FAQ’s about the Law and Organ Donation

  1.  What happens when there is no one available to make a donation decision for a patient?

If a patient is not a registered donor the donation decision falls to their Legal Next of Kin (LNOK).  There is a LNOK decision making hierarchy in every state.  Please CLICK HERE to see the list of hierarchies for the states that we serve.  LCNW and the hospital will always follow the hierarchy outlined by the state where the hospital is located.

If a patient has no family or designated decision maker, their body becomes the responsibility of the Medical Examiner (ME) or the Coroner of the county they die in.  In this case, the ME or Coroner would have the responsibility to authorize or deny donation. LifeCenter will work with the hospital and ME/Coroner to determine if donation is possible in these cases.

The LifeCenter Northwest Family Services Team offers care and support to any and all appropriate family/friends involved in the donation process, regardless of their decision making power.

  1. What does being a registered donor mean?

Being a registered donor means that a person has legally authorized the donation of any possible organs, tissues, or corneas at the time of their death.  This can be done on a valid state ID or driver’s license, through the on-line donation registry, or through other legal paperwork such as an advanced directive.  When a person is a registered donor, no one else has the authority to make a different donation decision for that person.

  1.  What if someone is a registered donor but their family is not supportive of donation? 

Donor Designation falls under Gift Law.  If you have legally designated yourself as a donor, you have already made that decision for yourself.  The vast majority of families are supportive of their loved one’s wishes when those wishes are known, even if they would not make the same choice.

On the exceptionally rare occasion when a family tries to decline donation on a patient who is registered, we will continue to follow the directive of the patient.  We work very closely with the hospital to support that family throughout the process as well as follow up with them afterwards.  On these unique cases, we have found that families usually come to accept the decision that their loved one has made.

Click here to watch Alexandra Glazier, JD, MPH Vice President and General Counsel, New England Organ Bank, discuss Why Gift Law Matters: The Law and Ethics of Donor Designation at the UNOS Region 6 Forum in Seattle, WA

  1. What if a registered donor is under 18 years old?

If a person is a registered donor but is under 18 years old their donor designation is considered a request or document of their wish, but legal authorization from the correct LNOK hierarchy is still required.

  1. What if the LNOK cannot agree on a decision for a patient?

When the LNOK level is shared by more than one person their decision making power carries equal weight.  They will need to determine a way to come to a final mutual decision or vote.  LifeCenter Northwest will work with the family to provide any needed information or clarification while decisions are being made.

  1. If the hospital staff knows a person is a registered donor will they still try to save their life?

Hospital staff will always work their hardest to save a patient regardless of their registration status.  Their number one responsibility is always the care and best interest of their patient.

Not only is taking good care of each patient the right thing to do, outstanding care of a patient is actually critical for the process of organ donation to even be possible.  For example, in the unlikely event that a patient were to receive a poor level of care, that would only decrease their chances of being able to donate.