This upcoming Monday is Donor Awareness Day, created by the Virginia State Legislature in 1997 to celebrate the contributions of organ and tissue donors.
As a proud registered organ donor, I wanted to pass along some information regarding some of my efforts to improve the process for organ donation this year.
I co-patroned HB652 with Del. John O’Bannon (R- Henrico) to update the terminology surrounding neurological death and also HB653, which eliminates the requirement that an individual indicate their willingness to make an anatomical gift every time they renew or replace their license. This bipartisan legislation passed with the overwhelming support of the full General Assembly.
Currently, Virginia drivers must indicate their desire to be an organ donor every time they renew their license. If they inadvertently forget to check the box, they are removed from the list of organ donors. This practice caused far more headaches than necessary.
Under the new legislation taking effect July 1, donors who for whatever reason wish to remove their names from the donor registry may still do so by calling the registry. The DMV does not maintain the official donor registry, so it was inappropriate that a clerical error could remove an individual from the list.
Donate Life Virginia identified this loophole as the number one area to fix, and I was proud to work across the aisle on this issue to improve the lives of Virginians who needed organ and tissue donations.
HB652, updating the terminology regarding neurological death, was necessary to keep up with the pace with new advancements in our medical knowledge about the brain. Del. O’Bannon is an experienced doctor, and these advances could not have happened without his medical expertise.
I had previously considered introducing legislation, HB614, mandating choice so that we are required, when applying for a driver’s license, to indicate whether or not we are willing to make an anatomical gift rather than the current law that allows applicants the opportunity in the affirmative only. However, I decided to withdraw the bill after learning that over half of all donated organs and tissues come from Virginians who were never on the donor registry. My legislation would have had the unintended consequence of creating a legally binding “no donate” list — which obviously is not what we wanted to do.
I intend to continue working with Donate Life Virginia and other legislators willing to improve the process of organ donation and expanding the pool of potential donors. I encourage constituents to consider becoming an organ donor too, and to contact my office with ideas for legislation regarding organ donation and other issues. You can reach my office at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about organ donation please visit www.donatelifevirginia.org