Organ Donation Law and Legal Definition

Legislation regarding organ donation is primarily state law, which varies by state. Laws on organ donation usually prescribe a minimum age and a written statement declaring the intent to make a gift of all or part of one's body. The statement may be required to be witnessed, and there are rules on how to properly revoke such a statement. Generally, unless a statement is made declaring an intent not to be an organ donor, relatives, spouses, and guardians often may make an organ donation for a decedent.

Medical suitability for donation is determined at the time of death. Donors are qualified based upon physical condition, regardless of age, although donors under 18 require parental consent. Donations are made of organs (heart, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, liver, and intestines), tissue (cornea, skin, bone marrow, heart valves, and connective tissue), and bone marrow. Ethnic minorities have a greater need for transplants because some diseases of the kidney, heart, lung, pancreas, and liver that can lead to organ failure occur more frequently in ethnic minority populations than in the general population. Matching donor organs to potential recipients requires genetic similarity, therefore people of the same ethnic background are more likely to be matched. Patients are matched to organs based on a number of factors including blood and tissue typing, medical urgency, time on the waiting list, and geographical location.

Most states allow a person to enlist as an organ donor through their driver's licensing procedures. Organ donors then are identified as such on their drivers' licenses. Statutes define whether the gift shall become invalidated upon the expiration, cancellation, revocation or suspension of a driver's license or nondriver identification card.