September 2009 Archives

September 12, 2009

Organ Donation: Not Just For Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs' recent return to the public eye after a liver transplant highlights the amazing benefits that can come from organ donation. In his own words, "I now have the liver of a mid-20s person who died in a car crash and was generous enough to donate their organs. I wouldn't be here without such generosity,"

But organ donation is not a simple issue, and many have to wait for months or years for a suitable organ. A recent article in the Ohio Dayton Daily News reports that 54% percent of those eligible people are registered to donate organs (which means that close to half of those that could register to donate, don't). That puts Ohio ahead of most of the nation, though.

Nationally, according to the non-profit group Donate Life, only 38% of drivers have registered to be organ donors, more than 100,000 people are awaiting a donated organ, and 18 people die each day waiting for available organs.

The article listed the following reasons why people choose not to register:

  • Concerns about bodily integrity.
  • Worries that signing a donor card may 'jinx' them.
  • Mistrust of doctors and fear that they won't get proper care if they are registered organ donors.
  • Religion.

To learn how to register to donate organs in your state, go to or


For more information on being an organ donor, see Nolo's article The Organ Donor: A Guide.

September 5, 2009

Dogs Fight Back: Fighting for Helmsley's Billions


happy dogs.jpg

First, Leona Helmsley died and left her 5 billion dollar fortune to be used to help dogs. Then, the trustees of the estate sued to change that and use only a small fraction of the fortune for dogs, and the rest for human philanthropic causes. Now, three large animal rights groups are appealing that decision and asking the New York Surrogate's Court to intervene and force the trustees to use more of the money to help dogs, in accordance with Leona Helmsley's wishes.

 "Just a fraction of the money involved in Mrs. Helmsley's estate is a game-changer for animal welfare," says Marsha Perelman, ASPCA Board Chair. "The fate of dogs in this country could very well rest on the decision of this lawsuit--it is that critical."

To learn more about leaving assets to your pets, see Nolo's article Providing for Your Pet After You Die.

September 1, 2009

Palliative Care: Making the Best of a Bad Diagnosis

Senator Kennedy's death this week from malignant brain cancer highlights the limits of medical treatment. He received the best medical care possible, and still died in little over a year from his cancer -- the most common form of brain cancer, one with no effective treatment.

At the same time, by all accounts, his last year was mostly a good one, filled with family, attention to the things that mattered most to him, and the opportunity to die where he wished to be.

It's a last year that many would hope for. But not all are able to enjoy. Sometimes it takes an advocate within the medical establishment to help families find peace and comfort at the end of life. Not all doctors are trained to deliver bad news at all, let alone to do so tactfully and with full recognition of what it means.

The New York Times recently ran a long article about a branch of medicine dedicated to helping more people end their lives with dignity and comfort. If you or your family find yourself dealing with end of life care, find out if there's a palliative care physician available in your health plan, and take advantage of their training. Their focus is on comfort at end of life, not aggresive medical intervention that will ultimately only prolong, not prevent, death.

To learn more about palliative care, see Long-Term Care, by Joseph Matthews (Nolo).