Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 January 2021
In July 2013, parents in Ohio objected to their 21-year-old son becoming an organ donor. Elijah Smith was involved in an accident and pronounced dead using neurological criteria. The organ procurement organization (OPO) went to court and argued that because the young man was brain dead and because his driver's license indicated that he wished to be a donor, the court should allow them to use his organs. The mother argued that her son did not understand what he was signing when he signed his license and that his signature did not reflect an informed decision. The court disagreed with her, saying that he had indicated a wish to donate his organs and that no one but Elijah could revoke that wish. His organs were removed.
Elijah's mother suspected that he did not understand what he was signing. She might have been right, given what we know about the process for obtaining permission for organ donation and the limited public understanding of brain death.