By Catherine Faimon | Publisher The Osage County Herald-Chronicle Online
A new law will take effect July 1, for which all Kansans of driving age should understand. Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson signed into law House Bill 2486, that changes the statewide organ and tissue donor registry from a first-person intent, to first-person consent.
Before this law was passed, it was left to the license holder to talk to family members about the desire or intent to become an organ donor, in the event of an untimely death. With the new law, a person who says “yes” to having their name placed on the Kansas organ and tissue donor registry, at the time of obtaining or renewing a driver’s license, will be legally bound to allow an organ procurement organization to harvest that person’s organs upon their death. Family members of that person will not be involved in decisions regarding organ donation, unless the person is under age 18, as the registry will be a binding document in the court of law.
House Bill No. 2486 was amended and signed into law in May, after proponent of the bill, Midwest Transplant Network (MTN) CEO Rob Linderer, introduced it to the Senate Committee on Public Health and Welfare.
Linderer, along with attorneys for MTN and the National Kidney Foundation, said the amendment “would strengthen and clarify the provisions of the Kansas Uniform Anatomical Gift Act regarding decisions to donate anatomical gifts prior to death and that the first-person registry would provide a more effective mechanism for donors to have their desires concerning the donation of organs registered and recognized.”
In an interview with The Herald-Chronicle last week, Linderer said, “A first-person consent registry upholds an individual’s decision to donate as legally-binding and assures that no one can overturn or disregard the individual’s decision.
“The passage of new legislation in Kansas, transferring the statewide registry to first-person consent is a milestone in fulfilling Midwest Transplant Network’s mission,” he said. “What better way to celebrate the power to gift life and honor donors and their families than new laws fully respecting an individual’s donor designation.”
Midwest Transplant Network Media and Relations Specialist Erin Gregory told The Herald-Chronicle, “With first person registry, nobody can disregard a person’s wishes. It is legally binding for Midwest Transplant, it’s legally binding for the hospitals, and legally binding for the loved ones. An individual can certainly change their mind, you can take your name off the registry or join the registry, all through our website. This is a way to let your loved ones know what your decision is.”
How to register
Beginning July 1, Kansans who obtain a new driver’s license or renew their license, will be asked at that time if they want to place their name on the donor registry. The symbol of a heart and the words “Organ Donor” will be added to the license, and their name will be added to the new registry.
Linderer indicated there are approximately 500,000 Kansans whose names appear on the current registry, although some of those names may be duplicates or people who have died or moved out of state.
He said, “We are hoping that the new Kansas registry will be up and operational by Sept. 1. All Kansans who have previously signed up in the intent registry will need to re-register on the consent registry. No names will be transferred from the old registry to the new registry without active participation of an individual.”
Linderer said instead of his organization being the sole proprietor of the registry, they have opted to contract with an outside firm in Jefferson City, Mo., to maintain the database. “We want to hold ourselves accountable and be trustworthy in the public’s eye,” he said.
Another way to add your name to the registry is to visit www.mwtn.org, download and fill out the enrollment form and mail or fax to Midwest Transplant Network.
A separate website, www.DonateLifeKansas.org, will also be set up by Sept. 1, and will have an e-mail address for correspondence related to signing up or removing a name from the registry.
Removing your name
Once a person’s name is entered into the new registry, they become legally bound to donate their organs and tissue, in the event of being declared brain dead, or if death is imminent. A donor may revoke the gift by directly accessing the registry website, where they will be asked to put into writing, their desire to be removed. To maintain authenticity of a person’s desires, MTN will have a procedure in place to validate the person’s request.
The symbol will remain on the driver’s license until the next renewal date, and should not be marked through. A new license, one without the symbol, may be obtained at local Department of Motor Vehicles offices, for a fee.
Misperceptions about organ donation
One of the most common misperceptions about organ and tissue donation held by the public is that a patient’s level of care in a hospital would be diminished, if the doctors knew the patient wanted to donate organs and tissues.
“The staff at the hospital who are responsible for taking care of a patient coming into the hospital … are totally different than the staff from my organization, or a transplant team, who would be involved with removing the organs,” Linderer said. Strict federal and state regulations are in place, for hospital staff, as well as for organ procurement staff, to prevent conflicts of interest among the groups.
“A physician who is in attendance at the time of a patient’s death cannot participate in the procedures for removing an organ or transplanting an organ or a part into another patient at that hospital. The reality is, there’s only about one percent of patients who die that can be organ donors,” he said. “It’s quite an amazing statistic when you look at the number of overall deaths.
“There is a tremendous shortage of organs and people die every day on the waiting list. Out of the 22,000 death referrals that take place in our service area, only approximately 200 are able to be organ donors, and another 700 are able to donate some type of tissue.”
Another misperception is that a person who has donated organs and tissues is unable to have an open casket funeral.
“The experience we’ve had is that the typical attire a person is clothed with at an open casket funeral situation, does not interfere with organ or tissue donation,” Linderer said.
“We talk with families at the time the donation is proceeding, to find out what their plans are for funeral arrangements, even to the extent of their loved one’s attire for the funeral. For example, if they wanted to bury their loved one in a short sleeve shirt, we would not take bones or tissues from the lower arms that would interfere with the ability to wear that attire.”
About Midwest Transplant Network
Midwest Transplant Network is an organ procurement organization, founded in 1973. The not-for-profit corporation employs approximately 100 full-time staff and another 25 part-time employees. Its territory serves Kansas and the western two-thirds of Missouri. The company’s mission is to save lives through organ and tissue donation and transplantation. Midwest Transplant Network strives to educate and inform the community about the need for transplantation.
Midwest Transplant Network is in the process of updating its website and educational materials to reflect information specific to this new law in Kansas.
Linderer said MTN staff will meet with Kansas Department of Motor Vehicle management staff and county treasurer staff in the near future, to “bring them up to speed” and provide brochures and information about this change in Kansas law.
For more information, call (888) 744-4531, or visit http://www.mwtn.org
“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Register to be an organ and tissue donor & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
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