Without a “Refusal Document,” You’re An Organ Donor
Radio Commentary, WMVV 90.7 New Life FM, June 25, 2010
By Sue Ella Deadwyler
Good morning, Jim. The first time I speak to a new group about political issues in Georgia, I begin by asking whose driver’s license has been renewed, lately. Then, I ask whether they were asked about being an organ donor. When they say no, I explain the reason I’m asking.
Two years ago when S.B. 405 passed, it got no publicity, but totally reversed Georgia’s organ donor law. It amended the Georgia Anatomical Gift Act relating to the “acquisition and loss of property” and defined “anatomical gift” as a donation of all or part of a human body to be taken after the donor’s death and used for transplants, therapy, research or education.
Before July 1, 2008, the public program for soliciting organ donors was implemented when drivers’ licenses were issued or renewed. It was an “opt-in” process that required every driver to make a decision whether to register as an organ donor, with no pressure on anyone to say yes.
But, with the passage of S.B. 405 in 2008 the method for acquiring organs was quietly changed. The original law required individuals to actually sign up, to become organ donors. Therefore, they knew they were donors. Now, this new law views all individuals as, automatically, “prospective donors” at death, unless they left a written “refusal document” or verbal refusal statement that’s verifiable by witnesses.
When the organ donor law was put in the Code Section that governs acquiring and regulating property, the legal attitude about dead bodies became obvious. Meaning, a dead body is considered property that may be used for body parts, if deliberate steps were not taken to prevent it. So, unless the deceased left a verbal or written refusal statement or has a family member that says no, the law allows a director of a funeral home or crematorium to decide whether or not the entire body or only the organs are donated.
During the session, Representative Bobby Reese introduced H.B. 1235 to make the organ donor law opt-in again, but his bill died without a hearing in the House Health and Human Services Committee. Until the organ donor law is changed, a documented refusal must be left to prevent organ harvesting. For Georgia Insight I’m Sue Ella Deadwyler, your Capitol correspondent.