New Legislation Aims to Clarify Question on Driver’s License Application about Organ Donation

On Wednesday the Nebraska Legislature passed LB47, a bill that will amend the wording on the driver’s license application and retain the individual’s donor designation even if their license expires.

Previously, when applying for a license, applicants were asked “Do you wish to be an organ and tissue donor?” Now, the question will read “Do you wish to include your name in the donor registry of Nebraska and donate your organs and tissues at the time of your death.” 

“The new language highlights two important components of donation—the donor registry of Nebraska and the fact that you’re signing up to be an organ donor after your death,” said Kyle Herber, President and CEO of Nebraska Organ Recovery. The donor registry of Nebraska is the database that contains all of the names of Nebraskans who have indicated a desire to be an organ, eye and tissue donor. When someone has died and the circumstances for donation are met, the donor registry is checked to verify if the individual has registered or not. In Nebraska, if the individual is registered, donation will automatically move forward. If the individual is not registered, family will be approached to authorize donation. “Joining the donor registry takes the burden off of the family,” said Herber. “In a very trying time, family members don’t have to worry if they are making a decision that their loved one would or would not want.”

Registrations from the driver’s license application account for 98% of the donor registry. Individuals can also sign up on the Nebraska Organ Recovery website.

The other change in the statute clarifies that donation will happen after the individual’s death. Living donation—providing a kidney or partial lung or liver to someone else—is becoming more prevalent in the United States. Individuals healthy enough to donate can decide to be a living donor, normally at the request of a family member or friend who is in need of a transplant. Joining the donor registry of Nebraska does not indicate a desire to be a living donor.

An additional component of the bill aimed at making the donation question mandatory on the driver’s license application did not make it into the approved version of the bill. “Many states now require applicants to decide if they want to be a donor when they get their license,” said Herber, “and those states have seen an increase in residents who join the registry.” Herber expressed disappointment that the full version of the bill did not pass, but said Nebraska Organ Recovery will continue to encourage the change in the future.

“Research has indicated that 95% of citizens support donation, yet the percentage of Americans registered is just over 50%,” said Herber. He hopes the new language will clear up any confusion about donation that may be preventing Nebraskans from joining the registry.

2015 was a record-breaking year for donation in Nebraska and the United States. Although donation rates are up, the number of organs available for transplant falls far short of meeting the need. Currently over 120,000 individuals are on the waiting list for a life-saving transplant. 30,973 transplants were performed last year.

Posted: January 29, 2016

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