January 23, 2015 Radio Commentary

Organ Donor ID Cards

Radio Commentary, 90.7, 91.7 New Life FM, January 23, 2015 – By Sue Ella Deadwyler

In 1994 Georgia passed a bill allowing applicants to pay half-price for a driver’s license if they agreed to become organ donors.  If they said YES, their decision was indicated on the back of their driver’s license.  That was an opt-in plan, as it should have been, but fourteen years later, it was quietly changed to opt-out.  That change meant all drivers became “presumptive” organ donors, if they didn’t leave a “refusal document” or had not told two witnesses to prevent the harvesting of their organs.

The bill that changed the process 14 years later was S.B. 405 that passed in 2008 and was signed by the governor on May 12th that year.  S.B. 405 of 2008 is still online, if you’d like to read it for yourself.  In 2008, when I mentioned that the process had been changed from opt-in to opt-out, an official, said, “Well, I guess they weren’t getting enough organs donated.”

S.B. 405, that remains current law, lists ten different groups that may allow a decedent’s organs to be harvested.  Relatives are seventh on the list and the ninth category allows “any person having the authority to dispose of the decedent’s body” to agree to harvesting, indicating that medical examiners, funeral directors or crematorium personnel may initiate the process.  The tenth category allows a court to decide and parents may over-ride the decision of a deceased 18-year-old son or daughter.  This is important today, because H.B. 19 was pre-filed December 3rd to create identification cards for people who want to donate their organs.  The Department of Driver Services would issue the cards, and add the names of donors to a state-wide registry accessible to organ tissue and eye banks.

ID cards addresses the matter for donors who opt-in to the program, but it does not reverse the “presumptive donor” classification of drivers that prefer NOT to be donors, but don’t realize they must leave a refusal document to prevent harvesting when they die.  To accommodate those who choose not to donate their organs, H.B. 19 should be amended to eliminate the “presumptive donor” category and return the process to an opt-in plan, as it was when it was created.  When this bill is officially introduced and referred to committee, I’ll explain which legislators to contact.  For Georgia Insight I’m Sue Ella Deadwyler, your Capitol correspondent.