Online signup sought for organ donorsPIERRE — The Daugaard administration wants changes from the Legislature intended to increase organ and tissue donation in South Dakota.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
PIERRE — The Daugaard administration wants changes from the Legislature intended to increase organ and tissue donation in South Dakota.
Lt. Gov. Matt Michels testified Monday to the Senate State Affairs Committee. The state Department of Public Safety would be allowed to establish an online system for people to officially register as organ and tissue donors.
The legislation, HB 1217, from Gov. Dennis Daugaard could receive final legislative approval as early as this afternoon.
South Dakota currently allows people to list themselves as organ donors on their driver licenses and identification cards. That law was adopted in 2001.
Michels, who was then a member in the House of Representatives, worked on that legislation. He noted Monday that former Gov. Bill Janklow’s corneas were donated after his death last year.
“I’m really, really wondering where they went,” Michels said. “I’m sure the person has incredible vision.” Michels said Gov. Daugaard asked that South Dakota update its laws and policies to reflect the best practices used in other states. Michels said South Dakota’s enrollment of about 55 percent of citizens as organ donors is much better than the national average of 43 percent but the level has been stagnant here.
The goal of the legislation is to increase the percentage. Michels said one step is establishing the on-line registry, so that people’s opportunity didn’t come only when they went to the driver license station.
One of the witnesses who testified Monday was state Corrections Secretary Dennis Kaemingk, of Mitchell, who spoke from his family’s perspective after their son Jason, who was 15 at the time, received life-ending injuries when he was hit by a car 18 years ago. Parts of his body were donated for others’ needs.
“It is exciting to see us building on and refining these statutes,” Kaemingk said.
Another witness, Tim Bjork of Pierre, spoke from his experience as a heart-transplant recipient. “Without organ donation, there is no me,” he said.
The legislation strengthens the legally-binding nature of the driver-license decision, allows the Department of Public Safety to engage in more publicity efforts and to keep a computerized data base of people who agreed to be donors.
It also allows the department to work more closely with the federally-designated LifeSource organ-procurement organization and with other non-profit agencies involved in tissue and eye donations. LifeSource is based in St. Paul, Minn., and is the procurement organization for South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota and part of Wisconsin.
The computer registry would allow people to sign up as donors or alter their information or remove their previous approval.
The House of Representatives voted 59-1 on Feb. 19 to approve the changes. The Senate panel voted 7-0 Monday to give its endorsement. “This is just the next logical step in the evolution of organ and tissue donation,” Sen. Tim Rave, R-Baltic, said.