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Bill Would Make Coloradans Organ Donors By Default

DENVER (CBS4/AP) — Some lawmakers say Colorado should be the first state where people become organ donors by default, even though other states’ efforts have been halted by worries about making such a personal decision automatic.

Colorado’s proposal, introduced in the Legislature last week, would change the process for renewing driver’s licenses and ID cards so applicants are assumed to be organ and tissue donors unless they initial a statement that says they want to opt out.

The Colorado Donor Alliance said in 2010, 66 percent of people at the DMV opted in to organ donation even though the state doesn’t offer discounts on state IDs for donors, as some states do. That’s about 2.9 million people.

Sue Dunn with the Donor Alliance said she supports the idea of presumed consent but believes the proposed legislation feels too rushed and could backfire. She said that the system right now is quite successful. She wants to make sure that when drivers are asked about organ donation in a different way that they don’t opt out instead.

Brad Kornfeld knows how organ donations can save lives from personal experience. He agrees with Dunn.

“My father was actually one of the first double lung transplant recipients off of a ventilator in the world,” Kornfeld said.
After his father received a set of lungs, Brad gave his father a kidney. Kornfeld hopes the legislation will happen some day, but has doubts about what’s on the table at the Capitol.

“If the bill isn’t done properly and this bill is not, it will lead to preventing those professionals in the field from approaching those families and getting organs donated from those people who want to do it but hadn’t thought about it quite yet,” Kornfeld said.

The “presumed consent” system is common in Europe and is credited with dramatically raising donation rates. In the U.S., however, similar approaches have been defeated by lawmakers in at least three states — Delaware, Illinois and New York — because of concerns that donation programs seem coercive if they require residents to say no.

Organ donation advocates hope for a warmer reception in Colorado, where nearly two-thirds of people carrying driver’s licenses or state-issued IDs volunteer as donors — a higher rate than in any other state.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Democratic Rep. Daniel Pabon of Denver, said the change would simply make it easier for people already willing to donate their organs when they die. The current system relies on Division of Motor Vehicles employees to ask each person who applies for a license or ID.

“This takes a bunch of people who otherwise might donate but just get in the DMV and don’t want to stand in line, or they forget, and this makes it easier,” said Pabon, whose uncle received a liver transplant after three years on a waiting list in Iowa.

Applicants would see a statement that says, “You are automatically deemed to have consented to being an organ and tissue donor and this designation will appear on your driver’s license or identification card.”

Opponents of Delaware’s 2008 bill called it an intrusion into people’s privacy that treats organs as commodities. People against the opt-out method argue that presumed consent could force someone to become a donor against their will. Some people fear a medical team won’t work as hard to save them if there is a greater benefit to harvesting the organs.

“This issue is one that’s ripe for Colorado,” Pabon said of his presumed consent proposal.

Despite Colorado’s donation-friendly environment, organ donation advocates say the state still doesn’t have enough donors to meet demand.

“After people pass away, there’s a way to save nine lives, 10 lives with organ and tissue donations,” said Steve Farber, a Denver attorney who received a kidney transplant from his son and co-wrote “On the List: Fixing America’s Failing Organ Transplant System.”

Farber, who founded the American Transplant Foundation, hasn’t yet taken a position on Colorado’s opt-out proposal. Even if Colorado raises organ and tissue donations through an opt-out system, there would still be a shortage because medical demand far outpaces supply, he said.

Arthur Caplan, of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Bioethics, agreed that waiting lists aren’t going away.

“The demand for organs is growing so fast that even if we do this, we’re not going to meet the shortage,” said Caplan, one of the nation’s most prominent supporters of opt-out donation programs.

He had some advice for Colorado lawmakers supporting the change: Replace the “presumed consent” title on the bill with a better-sounding “default to donation.” Caplan says the phrase “presumed consent” sounds Orwellian to some.

“When you use the word ‘presumed’ it sounds like you’re just going to take the organ, and that doesn’t sound good,” said Caplan, who last year argued in favor of New York’s failed attempt at presumed consent.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  • S Bartlett

    Its a personal decision and not the goverernmental decision so please stop making decisions for us. We the people have a mind of our own and we are NOT stupid.

  • Melissa

    This is just wrong. I am an organ donor by choice not by being assumed as being a donor…. I will now opt out

    • Deadite

      “I will now opt out”

      I’m sorry, but this attitude is wrong, perhaps more so than what this bill is trying to do.

      If something like this changes your mind about being an organ donor, then you weren’t very committed to it to begin with.

      • Charliee

        Deadite – Agree.

        I don’t agree with assumed donor statis. However, it will not change my reason’s for choosing to be a donor.

  • Bob Simpson

    Harvesting body parts, eh?

    Typlcal Colorado nanny-state Democrat legistlature…
    When China does this everyone gets their panties in a knot…

    What if you die before your license is up for renewal?
    How about convicts and children next?

    I will now opt out, where I may not have before..

    • Phil.T

      I am a 14 year old “child” and I am very supportive of being an organ donor. I am in the process of becoming a youth organ donor my self. It is totally ridiculous to oppose a bill that does not force anything it seems as though you have all been dreadfully misinformed. Just to make things clear the bill states that if you do not want to be an organ donor you simply initial on a line. Also seeing that 64% of Coloradoans are already organ donors this bill will simply be making the lives of the majority of Coloradoans simpler. I think you all should rethink your views on this and try to get the actual information.

    • Bob

      Yeah, I know, I typed “legislature” incorrectly…

      Worry about something real…

      Like maybe next year they decide that if someone up the food chain needs your organs more than you do, you don’t have to be quite dead yet…

  • Kris

    I’d love to donate – just one problem, I’ve been a recipient of bone tissue and have been warned repeated never to donate – even blood. The risks to others would be too great. I would hate to think, my tissues would contaiminate someone because of a small error in either the DMV, the hospital harvesting my body parts or me forgetting to opt out. YEIKS!!

    • M.jay

      It is almost impossible to forget to opt-out if necessarily. you simply initial a line and if you actually read through your drivers license form you will see it clear as day.

  • marcuzen

    Surprise !!! Another system to generate revenue, create jobs, etc. Follow the money trail in your existing systems and methods and you will find out the scary truth…..make your decision then, and carefully.

  • Larry

    The ‘nannyism’ that our government tries and does impose upon the people is getting WAY out of hand! So, what? We don’t even own our own bodies now? What’s next? IT”S MY BODY!!!!!! It’s nothing more than typical liberal idiots’ way of thinking!

    • Emily

      You can’t take it with you.

  • Anon

    This will hopefully not pass, but if it does it will lead to more tax payer funded litigation. This is a program that works as it is, why turn it into another thinly-veiled attempt for government control of our personal privacy? This bill would make me, and many others, I assume, stop being a donor. This is a personal decision and NOT something to be legislated.

  • jojo

    Millions of U.S. military personnel and their families stationed in Europe before 1996 may have eaten British beef on base during the height of the mad cow epidemic. Also, known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy or it’s variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease Unsuspecting recipients may receive these tainted organs. You can’t donate organs or tissue
    In an indirect and twisted goolish way, the state will be profiting from the harvesting of human organs.

  • marci

    Please, people – everyone should have the freedom to their political opinion, I think. But when that opinion is used as a reason to opt out of an act of compassion and altruism??? Please… think about what you’re doing.

    I am on the list for a kidney transplant and only 37 years old. There are thousands of us in Colorado who NEED you – all of you. Democrat or Republican; liberal or conservative. Please do not take yourself off the donor list as a way of making a political statement. Think of the lives you’re changing – will the bearocrats care? Doubtful – but the recipient who could have lived thanks to you certainly will.

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