Aligning end-of-life care wishes with legal paperwork (living will, POA, and more)

Aligning end-of-life care wishes with legal paperwork (living will, POA, and more)

Body donation is a noble and selfless act, and Science Care strives to be able to honor the wishes of all who intend to donate their body for the purposes of advancing medical science and improving patient care. 

One of the more heart-wrenching situations that can occur — when a donor wishes to make a positive impact through gift of donation — is the discovery that legal paperwork completed in life includes information and directives that do not align with the donor’s end-of-life care wishes.

A donation organization’s ability to facilitate a potential donor’s wishes for body donation may be affected by common legal paperwork such as:

  • Advance Care Directive
  • Medical Power of Attorney (MPOA),
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney (HCPOA)
  • Last Will and Testament, or a Living Will

In some instances, the information and directives concerning end-of-life care contained in the above documents supersede any other documents or stated intent when it comes to end-of-life care.

Inaccurate or incomplete information may prevent a donation organization such as Science Care from facilitating a potential donor’s final wish to donate. This would be applicable to both donation for live transplant and donation for scientific purposes. 

In general, each of the above documents are available through your State government’s website in a templated format, which allows individuals to complete the document(s) by “filling in the blanks.”

While this format may make completion quicker and easier for individuals, these templates often contain language which may be confusing, language which is prone to being misread, or sections/fields which are easy to overlook — any of which can cause an individual to mistakenly leave them blank.   

To avoid a scenario in which paperwork may prevent donation due to inaccuracies or being incomplete, Science Care suggests that individuals:

Take their time when completing these documents.

  • Carefully read and understand each section prior to making selections.
  • Make certain your selections/preferences align with the ‘I do’ or ‘I do not’ language which begins each sentence. It is common for an individual to select an option that is counter to their intent 

Make certain all sections/fields are completed, and that none remain blank (even if a section may seem redundant).

  • Name more than 1 agent/representative, and consider their age/health status when completing the document
  • Ensure the selection associated with ‘Final Disposition’ aligns with the desire to donate. Final Disposition for body donation to science is always cremation
  • Confirm the selection associated with the ‘Purpose of Donation’ aligns with the desire to donate. If the intent is to proceed with body donation for scientific purposes, making a selection such as “Transplant or Therapeutic Purposes Only”, or “Research Only” may prevent a Donation Organization from being able to facilitate donation if their program does not offer such placement 
  • Verify you and your witnesses have properly signed and dated each document, and that the document has been properly notarized.
  • Have a trusted friend, relative, or legal professional review documentation to ensure completeness and accuracy.

Periodically review your information to keep it up to date

Over time, an individual’s end-of-life care preferences may change, as can an individual’s preference of the person or persons named as agent or representative responsible to oversee or complete the actions associated with end-of-life care.

Annual review to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in your end-of-life care documents is suggested.

The below links offer information and resources relating to documentation and paperwork commonly involved in facilitating end-of-life care:

It is important to make your end-of-life care wishes known to your loved ones, so they can officiate and facilitate your wishes when the time comes. An Advance Directive or Medical/Healthcare Power of Attorney could be a good option to document your wishes and make them known.

As with any legal document, accuracy and completeness are paramount to ensuring your desires, preferences, and wishes can be honored. Science Care encourages all who are interested in donating their body to science upon passing to explore these potential options to document their wishes, and equally encourage periodic review of such documentation to ensure its accuracy and completeness.

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