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Organ Donation Poses Painful Family Decision

The loss is still painful for the Fudacz family, four Christmases later.

"We got a telephone call from Mt. Sinai. It was about one o'clock in the morning ... and they said your son was in an automobile accident," Larry Fudacz recalls.

Fudacz and his wife, Janet, were told their 21-year-old son Steve had sustained serious head injuries and that they would need to rush to the hospital. Steve eventually died of his injuries from the car accident.

Shocked and grieving, the Hinsdale, Ill., couple were asked whether they would sign off on donating their son's organs.

"We did not know if we were fulfilling Steve's wishes or whether we weren't," Larry Fudacz says.

Illinois is one of just nine states where the decision to donate organs ultimately is left to surviving family members. But 20 percent of those families refuse, against the wishes of the deceased.

Steve, who had signed up to be an organ donor (search), had not disclosed his decision to his parents before his tragic death. Advocates want to change the law in every state so the donor has the final say and family members are spared an extremely painful decision.

"It's really a case of donor rights, to do what the donor wants," says Jerry Anderson of donor network Gift of Hope.

But some families may not be comfortable donating pieces of their loved ones.

You may not like the decision if you're anti-organ donation and one of your loved ones decides to be an organ donor," Larry Fudacz says.

While allowing people to become organ donors by signing the back of their drivers' licenses has boosted donations, nearly every day in America someone dies waiting for a transplant.

Ed Burke thought he'd be one of them.

"I was able to celebrate my 50th birthday. Two years ago I didn't think I'd make it to 50," Burke, a kidney recipient, says.

The Fudaczes, who decided to donate their son's organs, take comfort in knowing that people like Burke are alive today because of their son's generosity. They hope Illinois law changes soon so other families will not have to face such an important decision at such a difficult time.

Click in the video box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Steve Brown.