The State Journal-Register ran the story below yesterday calling attention to the significant increase in organ and tissue donations that have resulted since the state implemented the new first-person consent registry in January 2006.
Link to story here.
More people donating organs
Program participation up 20 percent since law enacted
By Meagan Sexton – Staff Writer
Published Monday, January 21, 2008
Derek Lowry lived his life striving to be a hero in somebody’s eyes. The 23-year-old veteran from Effingham County died Oct. 2 from injuries sustained in a car accident the previous week. Three weeks prior to that, he decided to update his driver’s license information online and chose to become a registered donor through Illinois’ first-person consent donor registry.
Lowry joined more than three million other state residents who signed up for the first-person donor registry. Since it became law in 2006, the registry has increased organ and tissue donation by 20 percent.
Now Illinois has the largest donor registry in the United States. Almost 6 million people have registered in either the first-person consent donor registry or its predecessor.
Lowry’s mother, Carolyn Mathewson, said that her son’s decision comforts her.
“It’s actually the only thing that helps me get through this because my son didn’t die for nothing. In his death, there was so much positive that happened,” Mathewson said. “When I get really sad, I realize that on the other side of this story, there is a mother somewhere who is extremely happy.”
Illinois’ first-person consent law provides that a person’s decision to donate his or her organs is legally binding. Previously, no matter what the deceased person had intended, the donation decision was up to the person’s family, and many bereaved survivors didn’t follow through on donation pledges.
“Promoting the importance of organ and tissue donation remains a top priority of my office,” Secretary of State Jesse White said in a press release. “It is estimated the new registry saves 100 more lives annually. One single donor can save or enhance the quality of life for 25 people.”
Mathewson was there when Lowry decided to become a donor.
“He kind of laughed about it and said, ‘I’m going to do this.’ Derek had always told me that he was going to live his life to be a hero,” she said.
Mathewson knows that her son’s organs saved at least three lives.
About 4,500 people in Illinois are on waiting lists for organ transplants, according to the secretary of state’s office.
Michael Leathers, a spokesman for Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, said 220 people are waiting for kidney or pancreas transplants through the hospital and Southern Illinois University School of Medicine transplant services.
Dave Bosch, spokesman for Gift of Hope, which coordinates the organ- and tissue-recovery process, said it is estimated that 300 people die each year waiting for organ or tissue donations.
Although people continue to wait for transplants, many lives have been saved because of the organ donor registry.
In 2007, 59 out of 268 organ donors came from the first-person consent registry, and approximately 206 first-person registrants were tissue donors out of a total of about 1,000 total tissue donors, Bosch said.
The Illinois Eye Bank reported that in 2007, out of 904 eye or cornea donors, 181 were from the registry.