Organ Donation as a Component of Estate Planning
The Kidney Foundation of Canada raises money to support people with kidney disease and to fund research into treatments for kidney disease. Each September, their big fundraising event is the Kidney Walk, which this year was held in a properly physically distanced manner; those with chronic kidney disease or kidney transplants have compromised immune systems. I participated in the London, Ontario Kidney Walk this past weekend (September 28) by walking in a nearby park. As someone who is living an abundant life thanks to a kidney transplant that I received four years ago, issues like organ donation are personally very important to me. I also believe they are important to most other Canadians, too.
According to the Canadian Transplant Society, 90 percent of Canadians support organ and tissue donation, but less than 20 percent have made plans to donate. In fact, a recent survey suggests that an opt-out process of organ donor registration has now become the favoured approach across Canada. Nova Scotia will be implementing this very approach effective January 18, 2021. Since this blog is all about the practice of financial planning, of which estate planning is a part, it seems right to talk about organ donation as a component of estate planning.
What is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is often thought of as making sure that you have an up-to-date will in place. If you have a significant degree of wealth, and depending on the province in which you live, you may also be concerned about minimizing taxes and probate fees, so trusts, charitable giving, and particular kinds of life insurance may also be factors you will consider when creating your will.
A Will as a Tool to Consent to Organ Donation?
You might think that, because a will deals with matters after you die, you can indicate in your will that you would like to donate your organs. However, that is generally not a good idea. Once you die, your heart stops pumping blood through your body and every part of it begins to lose life-sustaining oxygen. While a will can be used to affirm that you wished to have your organs donated, it is probably not going to be immediately reviewed at the moment of your death so the decision to donate needs to be communicated by other means.
A Power of Attorney as a Tool to Consent to Organ Donation?
Depending on the province in which you live, the granting of a power of attorney may only apply to property matters, like paying your bills when you are no longer able to do so yourself. Ontario and New Brunswick use the term Power of Attorney for Personal Care to address matters like health care, housing, and other aspects of your personal life if you become mentally incapable. Other provinces use a variety of terms, which I have described in an earlier blog post.
Nevertheless, a power of attorney for personal care, or personal directive, or whatever term is used in your province, is not the appropriate document to make your wishes known about organ donation. As estate lawyer Leigh Sands wrote in the 2014 article, “Can an Attorney for Personal Care Make Decisions about Organ Donation?” the purpose of such a document is “enhancing or sustaining the health and life of the grantor. Making a post-mortem organ donation in no way fits within this mandate.” This may be too fine a distinction for most of us non-legal types, but Ms. Sands’ recommendation is that a memorandum be drawn up at the same time as the power of attorney for personal care and attached to it so that it can confirm your wishes to be an organ donor. In this manner, you will have provided consent that is documented in writing for the benefit of both family members and medical staff so that your death may be able to provide hope for others.
Register as an Organ Donor and Let Your Family Know
Estate planning is about taking care of the various issues that will arise upon your death, but that does not mean that all aspects of estate planning are dealt with through a lawyer or a life insurance agent. The traditional approach to consent to organ donation has been to indicate your consent on your driver’s licence. More recently, however, the registration process has moved online. You can go to this government of Canada website to find a link to register in your province:
Alternatively, you can click directly on the link to your province’s registration process below:
Let Your Family Know
When family members are confronted with the reality of the death of loved one, the safe response is to reject the idea of organ donation. Such decisions are simply too much to process. However, those families that do consent often find that it gives meaning to what is otherwise perceived as a senseless loss of life. You may recall that Logan Boulet, a defenceman for the Humboldt Broncos, had told his family that he wanted to be an organ donor. Little did he know how soon that decision would need to be confirmed by his grieving parents. Yet, his decision changed the lives of six people who were in need of organ transplants. One of the difficulties of estate planning, including registering as an organ donor, is the confrontation with your own mortality. However, for the sake of your loved ones, pushing through that reluctance to make a decision – and telling them about your decision – is a necessity.
Click here to contact me for an appointment.
In these uncertain economic times, you may be interested in a half-hour no-cost, no-obligation financial planning conversation with me. It’s called FINPLAN30 and the range of topics is wide open. Click here to sign up for a free session.
Disclaimer: This blog post is intended for general information and discussion purposes only. It should not be relied upon for investment, insurance, tax, or legal decisions.