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California has taken steps to increase the number of organ donors in the State.  On January 1, 2019,  A.B. 3211 went into effect.  The new law makes three changes to California’s Advanced Health Directive (AHCD) law, which clarify patients’ rights regarding organ donation.

Organ donation is now the default choice.

The new law simplifies the choice to donate organs and/or tissue by making the choice all inclusive.  Donation is now the default, and if a person wishes not to donate, they must say so.  Instead of separate questions, the new form has just one choice for those electing to donate.  The new language says that upon death, organs, tissue, and parts can be donated for transplantation, therapy, research and education.  Individuals can specify exceptions or cross out any of the choices in the general donation clause.

Second, the new law clarifies that by agreeing to donate, the donor agrees to temporary medical procedures required for donation.  This includes procedures to evaluate and maintain their organs, tissues and/or parts for the purpose of donation.

Lastly, if a person chooses not to make an organ donation gift in an AHCD, that does not mean they refuse to donate.  Instead, health care providers must look to a person’s state authorized registration.  Californians register their choice with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which may indicate it on their driver’s license or ID card.  If an individual does not have such a designation, then the person named as an agent in the AHCD may make a donation upon the death of the principal.  If a person completes an AHCD but does not name an agent, the law states that an authorized individual may make a decision to donate, but such a decision must be limited by any limitation, preference, or instruction regarding donation specified in the AHCD.

Californians should make their wishes regarding organ donation clear.

The changes in the law are intended to boost California’s low rate of organ donation.  The take away for persons completing an AHCD is that if they hold strong feelings about organ, tissue or parts donation, they should clearly spell out their wishes in the AHCD.

Ash Kalra of San Jose authored the bill.  Former Governor Jerry Brown signed it after the close of the 2018 legislative session.