I've been seeing the ads on television, and maybe even in the newspaper, about the new online registries to sign up to be an organ donor.
I've had that D on my driver's license for years, but apparently that isn't considered informed consent and your next-of-kin is still faced with the hard decision of what to do at a time when they're in a great deal of emotional pain.
When my best friend died suddenly (and WAY too young) while on a business trip to Canada in 2005, her family honored her wishes and had her organs donated. At her memorial service, I heard stories about how the people at the hospital were so blown away that her family not only donated her organs, but donated them in Canada to Canadians even though they were Americans. (I don't even know if taking them across the border to the U.S. was even an option.) I think that took a special kind of grace to make that kind of decision while in intense shock since there hadn't been any hints that she had any problems with her heart or other serious illness.
I've made a point of making sure that Scott, my husband, knows my wishes, and I think I've told other family members too. But it wasn't until I got my daily post from The Happiness Project that I sat down and did it right away.
And if you haven't signed up on the registry and want to be a donor (you can limit what organs/tissues/etc you donate), please do so right away. G-d forbid that you or your loved ones will be in a position to donate anytime soon, but there's such a shortage of organs available. And wouldn't you want your loved one who needed a transplant to have a better chance of receiving one before it's too late?
If you're in Oregon or Washington state, go here. If you live elsewhere in the country, find your state's registry here.
I have to admit I hesitated about whether I was willing to donate skin, although Jews don't have open caskets anyway so it's not like anyone is likely to see me. I just find the concept a little squicky. But then I thought about the world of difference it could make for a burn victim, and I unchecked the box that would have refused it. For what it's worth, the FAQ says that even if you do donate your skin, it's still possible to have an open casket. (This is getting morbid, but I guess they leave it on your head and probably hands too so the parts people would see still look normal.)
State laws differ on whether family members can overrule your decision to donate once you're on the registry, but at least it's a clear way to indicate your preference down to the detail of exactly which parts you're willing to donate.
If you're not sure how you feel, at least go to the site and read the FAQ. If you still have questions, there are numbers for people you can call to discuss it. (At least on the NW page. I assume on other state/region pages as well.)
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