Take a look at the lower right corner of your driver’s license and look for a little red heart. If it’s there, it means you decided at the MVA to become an organ donor.
Although many people don’t appreciate the enormity of the decision, especially those who elect not to be donors, checking that little box can make the difference between life and death for many Marylanders.
In an effort to raise Maryland’s 50 percent donation rate, state senator Ron Young plans to introduce legislation that revises the organ donation process by switching from an opt-in to an opt-out policy.
Under the current, opt-in program, people who want to become organ donors in Maryland must register on their driver license applications. If a donor passes away and her organs are healthy, the Living Legacy Foundation, which manages organ donations in Maryland, arranges for the person’s organs to be donated to someone who needs them.
Under Young’s proposed opt-out policy, license applicants are assumed to be donors unless they specify otherwise. Young proposes having MVA officials ask registering drivers if they want to refuse to become an organ donor.
Young believes an opt-out system will push organ donation rates higher, pointing to countries with opt-out systems like Austria, Belgium, France and Sweden, all of which have donation rates that exceed 90 percent.
Some politicians have raised concerns about the effectiveness of an opt-out program. State senator Jamie Raskin argues that an opt-out policy would increase apprehension about organ donation among people who believe that the proposed law would infringe on their personal freedom.
Moreover, there is no data to suggest that an opt-out system would increase donation rates in Maryland, says Libby Wolfe, executive director of Donate Life Maryland, the donor registry.
Regardless of whether or not the policy is passed, students getting their licenses for the first time should check “yes” when they see the form to become an organ donor provided their parents legally consent.
There are 2,000 Maryland residents awaiting lifesaving transplants, and increasing donor sign-up rates could begin to reduce that number. Students should feel inspired by the example of European countries where over 90 percent of people agree to donate their organs, even if it’s not solely because of their opt-out policy. Sign up to be an organ donor—you could save a life.