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Organ Donors Need to Address Some Choices

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Organ Donor needs to consider alternatives


Here at Fleming & Curti, PLC, our standard estate planning service includes not just your will, but a financial power of attorney and a health care power of attorney. We also ask whether you would like to be an organ donor at death. Your response may reflect your religious traditions, experience with a friend or family member who was an organ transplant recipient, or even your professional history.

For clients who say “yes,’ we prepare a health care power of attorney that includes your willingness to donate your body for transplantation, research or study. But that might mean any of several different things. For some clients it might mean organ donation (corneas, kidneys, heart and lungs) to a living transplant recipient. To others, it might be tissue donation to medical researchers. Still others might mean a donation of their whole body for use in training new doctors.

Tucson residents have at least the options we describe here. If you don’t live in or near Tucson, your available choices may be different.

Willed Body Donation Program

This program, available through the University of Arizona, allows for the donation of the entire body. Since the program calls for donation of the whole body, candidates may not also be tissue or organ donors. There is an exception if only the donor’s corneas have been donated.

The willed body donation focuses on medical training and education at the University of Arizona’s medical school campuses, or possibly at other accredited educational institutions. For example, it might be used for continuing education programs for health care professionals.

The program is available to Arizona residents who have registered with the Willed Body Donation Program, and who die in Arizona. At the completion of the program, the donor’s body is cremated and the ashes are scattered – remains are not returned to the donor’s family, and the family is not informed how the donation was used.

A whole body donation may not be accepted if the donor died as a result of severe trauma. Similarly, recent surgery or certain communicable diseases (like tuberculosis, MRSA, sepsis, HIV/AIDs, or hepatitis) may lead the program to reject the donation. If the donor was obese; or if the donor’s family objects, the program may decline at the time of death. A donation may be declined if the facility is at capacity, or if too much time has elapsed between the donor’s death and notification given to the Willed Body Donation Office.

There is no enrollment cost. If the donation cannot be completed, however, the donor’s family will be responsible for making alternative arrangements. We have had a number of clients select this program, feeling like they are making one final contribution to the community.

The donor, him or herself, must complete the donation forms; no one can make the donation on your behalf. Forms for registering with the Willed Body Program are available at the University of Arizona’s body donation website.

Science Care (formerly Life Legacy)

Earlier this year, Science Care took over the operations of the Life Legacy Foundation. This program is available in several states, including Arizona. Science Care says that it works with medical universities, medical researchers and medical device companies around the world. It is a “non transplant tissue bank.” The donation is completed within 3-5 weeks, and the donor’s body is then cremated.

Under this program, the donor’s ashes are returned to the donor’s family. The donor’s family also receives a letter informing them how the donor’s tissue was used.

Donors in some states, including Arizona, can pre-register with Science Care. The donor will be assessed at the time of death, and if the donation is accepted, there is no charge for transportation, cremation, and return of the donor’s ashes.

Donors must be 18 or over to register, but there is no upper age limit on donations. Science Care has special programs for prospective donors receiving hospice care and for veterans of the U.S. armed services. With advance arrangements, a Science Care donor can also an organ donor.

Donor Network of Arizona and the Donate Life AZ Registry

The Donor Network of Arizona works with Arizona hospitals to coordinate donation of organs and tissue. When a person dies in an Arizona hospital, the hospital consults the Donate Life AZ Registry to check for organ donor registration. If the patient is not registered they may ask family members to consider a donation. With permission, the Donor Network works to find transplant matches on a national waiting list. Organs are allocated based on need and proximity. If they accept the donation, the Donor Network of Arizona assumes all costs associated with organ and tissue transplantation.

Many people register as an organ donor through the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles but you can also register online at the Donate Life AZ Registry. If you have registered through DMV your license will include a red heart symbol. Donors under the age of 18 need a parent or guardian’s consent in order to register. The Arizona registry is part of a nationwide program. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services collects interesting information about donor networks across the country.

Our Thoughts

So, a couple of things stand out for us. First, it is important to register in advance, and communicate your wishes to your family and your health care providers. Second, we think you should have a back up plan, in case the donation cannot be completed. For this reason, we often include a cremation directive in the health care power of attorney. We may also suggest an authorization for organ donation.

Before registering, think about what you want to accomplish with the donation. Do you want to help train new doctors, provide for a transplant patient, or assist in medical research that has the potential to affect many people? Finally, be aware that some programs return cremated remains to the donor’s family, and some do not.

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Robert B. Fleming


Robert Fleming is a Fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been certified as a Specialist in Estate and Trust Law by the State Bar of Arizona‘s Board of Legal Specialization, and he is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Robert has a long history of involvement in local, state and national organizations. He is most proud of his instrumental involvement in the Special Needs Alliance, the premier national organization for lawyers dealing with special needs trusts and planning.

Robert has two adult children, two young grandchildren and a wife of over fifty years. He is devoted to all of them. He is also very fond of Rosalind Franklin (his office companion corgi), and his homebound cat Muninn. He just likes people, their pets and their stories.

Elizabeth N.R. Friman


Elizabeth Noble Rollings Friman is a principal and licensed fiduciary at Fleming & Curti, PLC. Elizabeth enjoys estate planning and helping families navigate trust and probate administrations. She is passionate about the fiduciary work that she performs as a trustee, personal representative, guardian, and conservator. Elizabeth works with CPAs, financial professionals, case managers, and medical providers to tailor solutions to complex family challenges. Elizabeth is often called upon to serve as a neutral party so that families can avoid protracted legal conflict. Elizabeth relies on the expertise of her team at Fleming & Curti, and as the Firm approaches its third decade, she is proud of the culture of care and consideration that the Firm embodies. Finding workable solutions to sensitive and complex family challenges is something that Elizabeth and the Fleming & Curti team do well.

Amy F. Matheson


Amy Farrell Matheson has worked as an attorney at Fleming & Curti since 2006. A member of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council, she is primarily responsible for estate planning and probate matters.

Amy graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in political science and English. She is an honors graduate of Suffolk University Law School and has been admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Fleming & Curti, Amy worked for American Public Television in Boston, and with the international trade group at White & Case, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

Amy’s husband, Tom, is an astronomer at NOIRLab and the Head of Time Domain Services, whose main project is ANTARES. Sadly, this does not involve actual time travel. Amy’s twin daughters are high school students; Finn, her Irish Red and White Setter, remains a puppy at heart.

Famous people's wills

Matthew M. Mansour


Matthew is a law clerk who recently earned his law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. His undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Matthew has had a passion for advocacy in the Tucson community since his time as a law student representative in the Workers’ Rights Clinic. He also has worked in both the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He enjoys playing basketball, caring for his cat, and listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors.