Have SOS clerks ask about organs
Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land has a question before her:
Will she instruct her staffers to routinely ask citizens if they wish to be organ and tissue donors when they renew their driver's licenses or state ID cards?
Gift of Life Michigan, an organ/tissue recovery program, is making that request of Land. It's a request she should grant - and which state legislators should back with any appropriate resources.
Michigan is not a great state for registering organ donors. Less than a quarter (23 percent) of adult residents is on the donation list, compared to 81 percent in Wyoming and 66 percent in Indiana. USA Today reports that less than 40 percent of American adults are registered donors.
Gift of Life is engaging in a year-long effort to add 1 million new names to the registry. As of June 28, GOL reported 1.88 million, in total, were registered.
Not surprisingly, then, the waiting lists for donated organs are troubling. It's worst on kidneys - nearly 2,400 people are waiting for one. Nearly 100 people are waiting for a heart.
These are friends, family, neighbors who are looking for a second chance. And it's a second chance Michigan can help provide.
But the first step in finding a matching donor is having people agree to be donors.
Now, some Michiganians have their reasons for saying no. That is their right. But many people are willing and able to donate, but just haven't signed up.
That's where Land's office comes in.
Workers in Secretary of State Office branches are not required to ask citizens if they want to be an organ and tissue donor. That puts the state in an unfortunate minority, since 32 states and the District of Columbia do have their license clerks ask that question. Experience from such states is the simple act of asking boosts participation.
Land has participated in awareness efforts on donation. But her office told the Detroit Free Press that she was concerned about adding another duty to her front-line workers. That's a fair consideration. And it's no secret that Michigan residents want their visits to SOS branches to be as short and efficient as humanly possible.
Still, it's only one question and the smallest of policy changes.
By contrast, in New York and other states, bids have been made to revamp the entire process, setting people up automatically as organ donors unless they take specific action to remove themselves from the list.
Land should direct her staffers to politely ask customers about being an organ donor. And state legislators should make sure Land has the resources to perform this service.