Can Family Override Organ Donation

can family override organ donation

Many prospective organ donors sometimes have concerns about whether their families may attempt to override their decision to donate after death. 

Although most loved ones are committed to honoring the decisions of the deceased, the complex emotions that occur after a difficult loss can sometimes lead to conflict. In other situations, loved ones may have complicated feelings regarding organ donation. 

So, it is understandable that many people wonder if families can prevent organ donation from being carried out.

Can families override organ donation decisions?

In short, the answer to this common question is NO – family members cannot override your decision to be a donor. Let’s take a closer look at the donation process, the Donor Registry, and how these factors affect the decision.

Is signing up as an organ donor a legally binding decision?

Signing up to become an organ donor (as an adult 18 years or older) is considered a first-person authorized advanced directive. In other words, it functions just like a legally binding will. This means it cannot be overridden by family, even after you die.

Should you change your mind about organ donation, there are processes for you to remove your name from the donor list. 

Why can’t families override organ donation?

Navigating the death of a loved one is extremely difficult, and the organ donation process is intended to protect both the donor and their family. 

Because families are not permitted to override donations, they are relieved of the burden of deciding during a challenging time. Also, it ensures that an individual’s personal decisions and wishes are honored.

How are families involved in the organ donation process?

If you are on the Donor Registry, the process for organ donation will begin immediately after you die.

The local organ procurement organization will first confirm that you have provided legal consent for donation (by signing up for your state’s Donor Registry). In Michigan, that’s the Michigan Organ Donor Registry. If they cannot locate your name on the Donor Registry, they may check other legal information, such as your driver’s license or Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. If they cannot determine your wishes, they may ask your legal next of kin for approval. 

From there, a medical evaluation will be conducted. This evaluation will determine whether you are a viable candidate for organ donation and the details necessary to match you to potential recipients.

The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) will be contacted if your medical evaluation is approved. OPTN is a nationwide database that organizes the information of all individuals in the U.S. who need organ transplants. Your donor information will be entered into the database, and the search for potential recipients will begin. This process typically moves very quickly, so the transplant surgery can be completed within a very narrow window.

Your family will be informed throughout every stage of the process so that they can make any funeral arrangements accordingly. If needed, they may also be able to request additional support from a family advocate.

Talking to your family about your decision to be an organ donor

Ultimately, the best way to avoid any potential objections is to be open with your family about your decision to be an organ donor. It is a meaningful conversation so your family can process your choice and feel completely confident they fulfill your wishes.

In most cases, addressing questions about organ donation can help your loved ones put any concerns to rest. 

Becoming an organ donor

If you are interested in becoming an organ donor or would like support in communicating your decision to your family, Gift of Life Michigan is here to help. We provide ongoing care to the families of donors before, during, and after donation, supporting your loved ones in every way possible.

For more information about how to become an organ donor, contact us today or sign up to donate life on our website.

Donor Family Support


Image credit: khuncho24/Shutterstock


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