Given all that they ask of other people, the venality of the organ transplant business amazes me. I’ve already complained about their willingness to pay everyone involved in a transplant operation except the person who actually has the organ to be transplanted. To the surprise of nobody who understands economics, there’s an organ shortage.
So few Illinois residents are aware of the fact that signing the back of your driver’s license is actually NO LONGER adequate for making you an organ donor.
The Donate Life Illinois registration page contains a similar statement:
If you live in Illinois and signed up to be an organ & tissue donor before January 1, 2006, you need to RE-REGISTER in order to make sure your wishes are carried out. Signing the back of your driver’s license is no longer adequate in Illinois!
Both of these statements are disingenuous. If you signed your license, your consent to donate is as good as it ever was.
What changed in Illinois is that your consent to donate your organs on death no longer requires the permission of your next of kin. The procurement team can simply look you up in the registry and take your organs without needing to get explicit permission from your family. They expect to get more organs this way because they can’t be stopped by family members who are too distraught to make a decision. (I imagine they can even take the organs over your family’s vigorous objections, but my guess is they’ll be reluctant to do that.)
Both Meis’s message and the Donate Life Illinois website explain all this. However, their explanations imply that your consent to donate is invalid until you register, and that’s not true.
If you’re like me and you signed up as a donor before 2006 then you didn’t agree to this new way of doing things. You agreed to donate your organs only with the consent of your next of kin. That has not changed in any way. If you die without re-registering, that will still happen. The procurement team will simply approach your next of kin for permission.
If you read both the quoted statements carefully, they are technically correct in stating that signing your driver’s license is inadequate to make you a donor. It always has been, because they needed your family’s permission to take your organs. But I’ll bet that’s not what you thought those messages meant.
Update: Now that Virginia Postrel has linked to me, I should add that Scott Meis emailed me about this post. Although he objected to my characterization of this as “fibbing,” he did say he’d clarify the wording on the Donate Life Illinois registration page. Check it and see.
I should add that there’s nothing wrong with joining a registry that allows the organ procurement team to ignore your family’s wishes, if that’s what you want them to do. Maybe your family doesn’t agree with your decision to donate organs, or maybe you know they have trouble handling things like this. On the other hand, maybe you want to leave these matters in their hands because you trust them to do what’s right. After all, they know you best.