We write in response to a recently published opinion piece titled, “Organ donors save lives without trying,” published on April 30 in The Daily Toreador.
Thank you for covering the lifesaving topic of organ donation. LifeGift, the organ-procurement organization (OPO) serving Lubbock, and the Donate Life Texas donor registry appreciate the opportunity to explain our opposition to House Bill 1938.
While the bill is well intentioned, we believe the changes proposed by HB 1938 would decrease donations and lead to fewer Texans receiving the organ transplants they need to survive.
The current registry system allows people to make a donation decision, then register — or “opt in” — when they are ready. Most people opt in when getting a driver’s license.
The Texas registry is growing faster than any other state registry, and it includes nearly 50 percent of Texas adults and welcomes more than 1 million new registrants annually. The number of organs donated in Texas has increased by more than 35 percent in just five years.
HB 1938 proposes that all driver’s-license applicants be automatically registered unless they refuse, or “opt out.” While this idea may seem appealing to some, the risks and consequences are alarming.
First of all, registering should stay simple. The opt-out system proposed by HB 1938 would ask license applicants the question, “Would you like to refuse to register as an organ donor?”
This counterintuitive question requires a person to say “No” to agree to register, so a person’s response could be the opposite of what was intended.
The system also proposes that a person who does not answer the question at all would be added to the registry by default. We think donation should be a decision, not a default.
Second, the opt-out approach is controversial. A Gallup Poll found 57 percent of Texans oppose an opt-out system, primarily because it touches on ideas of privacy and government overreach. In fact, 27 percent said they would take steps to opt-out, regardless of their willingness to donate.
Also, a 2016 white paper by the United Network for Organ Sharing’s Ethics Committee reaffirmed its long-standing position that converting to an opt-out model is not ethically justified.
Third, support isn’t the same as a commitment. People can support organ donation and yet choose not to register. Though 90 percent of people say they support donation, not all are ready or feel informed enough to register.
The opt-out system proposed by HB 1938 forces driver’s-license applicants to record a decision, even if they aren’t ready.
Even worse, opting out would prevent a person’s family from being offered the option of donation after that person’s death.
Since 50-60 percent of donor cases rely on family consent, barring this option could mean thousands of fewer transplants each year.
And finally, the opt-in approach is universally accepted in the U.S. All 52 state- and territory-based donor registries in the U.S. are opt-in systems and function as a network.
This consistency supports national initiatives like the partnership with Apple that allows people to register using an iPhone. Ever wonder if Siri is an organ donor? Ask her.
As members of the donation community, we believe the current system offers the most effective way to continue increasing organ donation.
Research data prove that opt-in works, especially in Texas, which has one of the highest organ-donor rates in the world, exceeding every country with an opt-out registry system.
Our hope is that this information can help readers better understand the issue and why we oppose HB 1938, which seeks to abandon our current system that is clear, accepted and effective.