By Kaitlyn Schaeffer

State Senator Don White, representing Pennsylvania’s 41st District, recently introduced two pieces of legislation that he hopes will lead to increases in organ donation in his state.

Senate Bill 1305 would alter identification card and driver’s license applications in a subtle but substantive way. The state is legally required to ask individuals whether they wish to have organ donor designation printed on their driver’s licenses, but this new legislation would supplement this request to include the phrase “Pennsylvania strongly supports organ and tissue donation because of its life-saving and life-enhancing opportunities.”

Senate Bill 1306 would change Pennsylvania’s “opt-in” organ donation system with an “opt-out” or “presumed consent” process. The new driver’s license and identification card applications would state: “You are automatically deemed to have consented to being an organ and tissue donor. If you do not want to be considered an organ and tissue donor, you must elect to not be included on the organ donor registry by inserting your initials on the line below.”

Thus, individuals will be required to actively choose to not participate, instead of passively not participating.

These legislative changes were perhaps prompted by a personal tragedy in the Senator’s life. In 1998, his then 19-year-old son was killed in a car accident. His son’s driver’s license did not list him as a registered donor. However, the Senator and his wife, Anne, were able to give their consent to donate his organs. The couple said they took comfort in knowing that some good could result from such a tragic occurrence. It has been estimated that 50 or more people can benefit from the donations of just one individual.
Switching from an “opt-in” to an “opt-out” system will surely do much in the way of closing the gap between the percentage of Americans who support organ donation (90) and the percentage that are registered as organ donors (50).

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