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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: There is a widespread public misconception that needs to be cleared up. Americans need to know that family consent, not a donor card, is required for organ donation to occur. Hospital personnel always require the consent of next-of-kin before procuring organs. Organ donor cards are effective only if they provide a stimulus for family discussions about the intention to become an organ donor, and the potential donor makes plain to his or her family the desire to make the donation.

In 1995, a review of medical records of deceased patients revealed that there were approximately 13,000 to 15,000 potential organ donors. But only about 5,346 individuals actually donated, despite the fact that the American public overwhelmingly supports organ donation.

Thanks in advance for your help in closing this unfortunate gap. -- TANA SHERMAN, PARTNERSHIP FOR ORGAN DONATION, BOSTON

DEAR TANA: Thank you for an important letter. Discussing one's desire to be an organ donor is a vital step in the organ donation process. When people sign donor cards, they make a commitment and express their wishes to be vital organ donors at the time of their death. But if family members are unaware of a potential donor's wishes, they can -- and often do -- react negatively when they are approached and asked to give their consent. If families understand in advance, there could be an estimated additional 16,000 transplants each year.

I will continue to urge my readers to sign organ donor cards and to discuss their wishes with their families. I believe that most families will agree to respect the wishes of their loved ones.

DEAR ABBY: I am in my early 20s and have been married for three years. My husband's first wife died eight years ago, but he keeps her memory alive. Her wheelchair is still in the corner of our bedroom, and he has everything she owned.

My question is: When does she die? When should he get rid of her things? I feel like I'm competing with a dead woman; I feel haunted. You are the only person I can talk to. I have no other friends. I would like to have counseling but cannot afford it. I am an emotional wreck. -- VERY CONFUSED

DEAR CONFUSED: Tell you husband what you have told me, and give him a month to get her things out of the house, with the understanding that if he doesn't, you will call a local charity that will accept them.

(It occurred to me that you could sell the items and use the money for counseling, but I have a hunch that this will be quicker and just as effective.)

DEAR READERS: I recently ran across these clever instructions for planting a special garden and couldn't resist sharing them:

First, plant five rows of peas: Preparedness, Promptness, Perseverance, Politeness and Prayer.

Next to them, plant three rows of squash: Squash Gossip, Squash Criticism and Squash Indifference.

Then five rows of lettuce: Let Us Be Faithful, Let Us Be Unselfish, Let Us Be Loyal, Let Us Be Truthful, Let Us Love One Another.

And no garden is complete without turnips: Turn Up for Church, Turn Up With a Smile, Turn Up With Determination.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4900 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64112; (816) 932-6600