Being an organ donor is an act of kindness and compassion. Yet many people just don’t think about it. And some who would like to be donors neglect to make their decision known, or simply do not know how to do so. You might be surprised to learn just how easy it is to become a donor.

If you would like to donate your organs and/or tissues, here is what you need to do:

* Find out how donors in your state or country can make their wishes official. Some states allow residents to register through the Department of Motor Vehicles when they get or renew their driver’s licenses, while others have a separate registry. But most make it as easy as possible in order to encourage people to donate.

* Decide which organs and tissues you want to donate. You don’t necessarily have to donate them all. Include this information in the registry.

* If you are not listed on your driver’s license as an organ donor, carry a donor card in your wallet. Should you become critically injured in an accident, this will serve as notification of your wishes.

* Notify your family of your desire to donate your organs. Laws and procedures vary depending on your location, but in some cases, the family of the deceased can override this decision. Making sure your family knows your wishes will help ensure that your organs will be donated.

* Include instructions regarding organ and tissue donation in your will and your living will. While this is not required in order to be a donor, it will help make absolutely sure that your wishes are known.

* Remember that you can be a living donor of some organs. Living donors can donate a kidney, a lobe of the lung or liver, or a portion of the pancreas. While most living donors donate organs to family members, some donate them to complete strangers.

In some countries, consent to donate organs at the time of death is presumed of anyone who has not specified otherwise. Family members, however, are usually allowed to prohibit donation if the deceased has not expressed consent. So even if your country presumes consent, it is important to let your family know if you want to be an organ donor.

Organ and tissue donors are heroes to patients who need transplants in order to live or to improve their health. By making your intent to donate your organs known, you can make sure that every effort is made to give them to someone who needs them when you’re gone. If you would like to become a donor, there’s no time like the present to make your wishes known.

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