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Linda Chalat
Linda Chalat
Attorney • (866) 735-1102 Ext 366

Coloradans May Be Organ Donors by Default

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Colorado may become the first one where people become organ donors by default, even though other states’ efforts have been halted by worries about making such a personal decision automatic.

Colorado’s proposal, introduced in the Legislature last week, would change the process for renewing driver’s licenses and ID cards so applicants are assumed to be organ and tissue donors unless they initial a statement that says they want to opt out.

The "presumed consent" system is common in Europe and is credited with dramatically raising donation rates. But in the U.S., similar approaches have been defeated by lawmakers in at least three states — Delaware, Illinois and New York — because of concerns that donation programs seem coercive if they require residents to say no.

Organ donation advocates hope for a warmer reception in Colorado, where nearly two-thirds of people carrying driver’s licenses or state-issued IDs volunteer as donors — a higher rate than in any other state. The current system relies on Division of Motor Vehicles employees to ask each person who applies for a license or ID. About 65.6 percent of people with Colorado licenses or IDs, or more than 2.9 million people, are volunteer donors, state officials said.

In new system, applicants would see a statement that says, "You are automatically deemed to have consented to being an organ and tissue donor and this designation will appear on your driver’s license or identification card."

Opponents of the opt-out method argue that presumed consent could force someone to become a donor against their will. Some people fear a medical team won’t work as hard to save them if there is a greater benefit to harvesting the organs.

Yet, despite Colorado high rate of donation, organ donation advocates say the state still doesn’t have enough donors to meet demand.