Illinois organ/tissue donor registry no longer requires consent

The month of April is National Donate Life Month, four weeks when donation and transplantation professionals step up their year-long efforts to educate the public about the critical shortage of donated organs and tissues.

In Illinois, this year has particular meaning. That’s because in January 2006, the organ/tissue donor registry became legally binding for those who choose to join the registry with Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White’s office. Additional witnesses or family consent is no longer required for donation to occur.

This is great news for the more than 90,000 people who are waiting for a lifesaving organ. Who are these 90,000 people? They are people with diabetes, high blood pressure, cystic fibrosis, certain types of cancers, heart diseases—in other words, people all around you.

More than 400,000 organ transplants have been performed in the United States. Bone and tissue transplants can restore movement to crippled or injured limbs and give sight to the blind. Around 1 million tissue transplants are performed each year. You don’t have to look far to see the miracles of modern medicine and the generosity of anonymous donors working together to give life and hope to those in need.

Myth vs. fact

Myth: If emergency room doctors know you’re an organ donor, they won’t work as hard to save you.

Fact: If you are sick or injured and admitted to the hospital, the No. 1 priority is to save your life. Organ and tissue donation can only be considered if you die. (A coma or persistent vegetative state is not the same as brain death.)

Myth: When you’re waiting for a transplant, your financial status or celebrity status is as important as your medical status.

Fact: When you are on the transplant waiting list for a donor organ, what really counts is the severity of your illness, time spent waiting, blood type and other important medical information.

Myth: I am 60 years old. I am too old or sick to become a donor.

Fact: People of all ages and medical histories should consider themselves potential donors. Your medical condition at the time of death will determine what organs and tissues can be donated.

Myth: My family will be charged for donating my organs.

Fact: There is no cost to the donor’s family or estate for organ and tissue donation. Funeral costs remain the responsibility of the family.

Myth: It is too complicated to become a donor.

Fact: In Illinois, it is easier than ever. When you enroll in the new Organ/Tissue Donor Registry, you register your legal consent for organ and tissue donation to take place after your death. Your wishes will be honored.

If you joined the old Illinois donor registry (before Jan. 1, 2006), you must update to the new registry to ensure your wishes are upheld. You can do this by registering online at You may also register at any Illinois state driver’s license facility, or by calling the Illinois Secretary of State Organ/Tissue Donor Program at 800/210-2106. If you are younger than18, your family must give consent, so let your family know your wishes.

Spring is a time of renewal and rebirth, a perfect time for you to renew your commitment to helping others in need. Eighteen people die every day in the United States because time ran out for them. Don’t wait. Join the Illinois Secretary of State’s new Organ/Tissue Donor Registry. You can make a difference.

From the April 5-11, 2006, issue

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