Indiana, PA - Indiana County

White's legislation advocates organ donation

by on April 02, 2014 11:00 AM

State Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, believes human organ donation and transplantation is an issue that deserves more attention, and is something that can be more widely accepted just by increasing the public’s awareness.

It is also a topic with which he’s personally and painfully familiar.

White recently introduced legislation intended to promote organ donation efforts and donor designations on Pennsylvania driver’s licenses and identification cards.

“My bills are aimed at increasing organ donor designation by altering driver’s license and identification card application forms,” White said. “My hope is that these bills will lead to a thoughtful discussion on how Pennsylvania can provide more options that will help save lives.”

Senate Bill 1305 would redesign driver’s license and identification card applications to include the question “Do you wish to have organ donor designation printed on your driver’s license?”

“This question, although it is required to be asked, is not printed on all driver’s license/identification forms,” White said. “My bill would also require a phrase to be added to all forms stating that Pennsylvania strongly supports organ and tissue donation because of its life-saving and life-enhancing opportunities.”

The bill would create a “presumed consent” or “opt-out” system, which is in contrast to Pennsylvania’s current “opt-in” process.

Under the legislative change, all applications for a driver’s license or identification card would state: “You are automatically deemed to have consented to being an organ and tissue donor. If you do not want to be considered an organ and tissue donor, you must elect to not be included on the organ donor registry by inserting your initials on the line below.”

Applicants will still have a choice in the matter, White said. But when faced with the question, when required to take a proactive step not to participate, he believes more people will choose to help others by becoming an organ donor.

“It’s a personal thing for me,” White said of his sponsorship of the legislation. On May 29, 1998, his 19-year-old son, Benson, died of injuries he suffered in a traffic crash on Route 119 in Rayne Township. An organ donor designation was not on Benson’s driver’s license.

“We (White and his wife, Anne) were there, able to make the decision, and we said yes,” White said. He said he takes some comfort knowing that someone, maybe many people, are walking around today because some of Benson’s organs made them healthy again.

White’s proposed legislation will next be assigned to a Senate committee for review and consideration.

Organ donation will also be the topic of an information rally at noon Friday on the front steps of the Indiana County Court House. Indiana County Coroner Jerry Overman said the rally is to raise awareness of the need for donated organs, corneas, blood vessels, tendons and tissue and to provide information on how people can register to become donors. Representatives of donor and recipient families will speak at the rally.

Overman said 50 or more people can benefit from the donations of one donor.

According to the Donate Life America website, more than 117,000 men, women and children need organ transplants. Every 10 minutes another name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list and an average of 18 people die each day due to the lack of available organs for transplant.

While 90 percent of Americans say they support donation, only about half of eligible Pennsylvanians have organ donation designated on their driver’s license.

Overman said that in the deaths he deals with as coroner, the percentage who are registered organ donors is less than half.

Randy Wells has been a reporter and staff writer at The Indiana Gazette since 1988. His regular assignments include coverage of the Indiana County commissioners, Indiana Borough council and the Marion Center Area School District. His email address is
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