Login | September 23, 2019

Increased organ, eye donation at heart of bill

KEITH ARNOLD
Special to the Legal News

Published: September 11, 2019

A Springfield lawmaker wants to foster greater awareness of organ, eye and tissue donation.

Republican Rep. Kyle Koehler is taking on the task by championing House Bill 125, which would require state deputies registrar to ask all individuals who are renewing the motor vehicle registration for a $1 contribution to support organ donation programs.

Already state law requires deputies registrar to ask the question of applicants for a driver's license, commercial driver's license or identification card.

"HB 125 does one simple thing," Koehler said. "It directs the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to ask its customers to donate $1 to Ohio's Second Chance Trust Fund more regularly than they currently do."

In testimony in support of the bill, he shared with members of the Ohio House of Representatives seated for the Transportation and Public Safety Committee that hundreds of thousands of men, women and children await a life-saving organ transplant to allow for a second chance at life.

"Twenty of them will die today," he said.

The trust fund was established in 1997 to support projects to increase awareness of the importance of organ, eye and tissue donation throughout the state, a press release detailed.

The Ohio Department of Health manages the fund without use of tax funds. Optional $1 contributions collected at the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles are used to support donation education throughout the state.

Koehler shared his family's story to illustrate the impact a single donor may have on multiple lives.

"In January of 2013, my family suffered a significant loss. My brother Kurt, who was 54 years old, an avid snow skier and someone I looked up to, suffered a massive heart attack," he began. "By the time Kurt arrived at the hospital, there was very little the doctors could do. His brain had gone far too long without oxygen, and after consultation with his doctors, we realized he would not recover.

"During this incredibly dark time, the one spark of light came when the doctors told us that Kurt had chosen to be an organ donor, and was eligible to donate."

He said it was at that moment he realized how is brother's untimely death could provide not only hope, but life to others.

"My brother's unselfish decision affected the lives of dozens of others waiting for life-saving organ transplants, and my sister-in-law has had the chance to meet some of those individuals who received her husband's organs," Koehler said. "Kurt changed the lives of others because he made an informed choice."

The lawmaker stressed that too many Ohioans are unaware of their organ donor status, while others remain reluctant to register as donors because of misconceptions about what being an organ, eye or tissue donor entails.

Trust fund activities have included driver's education curriculum regarding donation, a similar high school curriculum and statewide awareness campaigns.

"If more people, like my brother Kurt, made the choice to become organ donors, many more lives could be saved," he said. "The Second Chance Trust Fund helps educate folks before they're faced with that decision."

In addition to asking for voluntary contributions, the BMV collects a $5 contribution for the Fund from each registration and renewal notice received for a "Donate Life" license plate.

A second hearing of HB 125 had not been scheduled at time of publication.

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