Healthy Tahoe: Consider registering as an organ donor

Matthew Wonnacott

On April 16, during National Donate Life Month, Blue & Green Day honors those who have elected to be an organ donor, celebrates those who have received transplants, and recognizes those who still wait for an organ or tissue transplant. On this day, the public is encouraged to wear blue and green to promote the importance of giving life by registering as an organ, eye and tissue donor.

Dr. Matthew Wonnacott

According to Donate Life California, more than 100,000 Americans are on waiting lists for donor organs. Every 10 minutes, another person is added to the national transplant list. California is the highest-ranking state for patients on the organ transplant waiting list at 21,000 men, women and children. On average, 22 people die each day because the organ they need is not donated in time — that is almost one person dying every hour.

Donors make life possible for individuals on the waiting list for transplants. Registering to be an organ donor is an easy, selfless act, and by making this pledge you give life to another person, and positively affect the lives of many others. Organ donation not only affects the receiving patient but can improve the lives of their loved ones. Your family can benefit too — many families say that knowing their loved one helped save or improve other lives helped them cope with their loss.

Regardless of your decision, it is prudent to plan for unforeseen events and end-of-life so that the burden does not fall on family members in difficult moments. Your plans and preferences can be outlined in an advance directive.

Advance directives are written instructions that let medical staff and your loved ones know the kind of medical care you want if you are seriously ill or dying and become unable to make decisions about your health. Advance directives, like a living will, alleviate difficult family dynamics at end-of-life, which can be damaging to relationships. By proactively setting up an advance directive, you outline wishes — such as organ donation — that will be honored upon your passing.

Advance directives can be modified while a patient is still alive and able to make decisions. Hospital staff and providers comply with the directive which is placed on your medical record. Consider setting up an advance directive while you are in good health.

Dr. Matthew Wonnacott is chief medical officer at Barton Health. Find an Advance Directive template at or register as an organ donor or update your donor profile at

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