Sign up to donate organs at DMV? Here’s what that means

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Donate Life Northwest maintains donor registry for the state

Donate Life Northwest provides education and awareness on organ, eye and tissue donation and maintains the donor registry for the state (KOIN).

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — An Oregon driver’s license gives people access to the roads but also allows them to donate their organs.

KOIN 6 News spoke to Donate Life Northwest to find out what organs are used and what the process entails. The organization provides education and awareness on organ, eye and tissue donation and maintains the donor registry for the state.

Aimee Adelmann, the director of education and outreach for DLN, said eye and tissue donations are more common.

“For instance, for eye donation, we recover the corneas, and the corneas can be used to restore sight to someone who has a visual impairment or has been caused by an accident that needs new corneas,” said Adelmann.

To donate other organs, the person must die in a hospital hooked up to a ventilator and die via brain death.

Donate Life Northwest has registered over 2.8 million Oregonians to be organ, eye and tissue donors.

“It’s really important that people consider that option and then have a conversation with their family about registering and understanding what that means, right? And making an informed decision,” explained Adelmann.

However, she added, if you sign up to be an organ donor, then you cannot donate your body to science.

Oregon Health & Science University has a body donation program that allows nurses and practicing health care workers learn about the body.

According to OHSU, all donors are handled with the greatest respect and the highest ethical standards, including the Oregon Anatomical Gifts Act.

People can apply to be a part of the program but the university states on its website that it could be about three years before they undergo final disposition. If a body is eligible, it will be determined at the time of death.

Acceptability for whole body donation can only be determined at the time of death after a medical assessment is completed. An alternate plan should be in place with a funeral home in the event that a body donation is not accepted.

A body might be turned away if they have an unhealthy body mass index, extensive trauma, signs of decomposition or history of a contagious disease.

Tamara Ostervoss, OHSU’s body donation program director, said that COVID-19 would disqualify a body from donation.

“COVID would be included as an active infection,” Ostervoss said. “Potentially, as the pandemic has changed, maybe policies and procedures can be adjusted for that.”

The virus has also impacted how many bodies have been donated to the program.

Ostervoss noted a decrease in the number of donors per program due to the protocols the hospital is following during the pandemic.

“It’s been hard to adjust to that impact. We have kind of given a priority system as to what we think is most important to provide educational opportunities for,” she said.

Ostervoss said that it’s important to also have high ethical standards when it comes to full body donations in light of a recent incident involving a man’s body that was dissected at a Portland hotel, which was reported by the New York Times.

“These are individuals that are providing a very selfless gift and it’s our responsibility to honor and be there for them with the same dignity,” said Ostervoss.

Whether it’s donating part or all of your body, both agencies hope people can make an informed decision with family and friends.  

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