Man Wants to Donate Heart, Liver - <i>Before</i> He Dies

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A Cherokee County man suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease is leading a push to let people donate vital organs — before they die.

Gary Phebus, of White, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2008.

ALS is a rapidly progressive and fatal neurological disease that attacks one's nerve system and muscles. Eventually, it affects your ability to control the muscles needed to move, speak, eat and breathe, the Mayo Clinic said on its website.

Phebus says once he realized he was going downhill, he researched organ donation and learned people often face long waits. He says he wants to give up his organs — his heart, lungs and liver — now, before they deteriorate.

But state and federal laws say that a person must be brain dead before a decision to donate organs can be made. Phebus wants to change that.

Phebus says he doesn't consider his proposal suicide because he's "dead anyway."

Although ALS causes muscle weakness, it does not affect muscles in internal organs such
as your heart, liver, bladder and kidneys.

It's estimated that as many as 20,000 Americans have ALS with 5,000 people diagnosed in the U.S. each year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Click here for more information from the ALS Association.