Source: NBC 9
Currently, individuals opt-in to participate in the organ donor program. The proposed legislation would create a "presumed consent" system where individuals would have to opt-out to not participate as an organ donor.
The proposed legislation has drawn both support and opposition among lawmakers. It is now being opposed by an organization at the center of organ donation dialogue: Donor Alliance. The organization coordinates organ donor transplants in Colorado and Wyoming.
"We're opposed to the current bill and in fact, we have so many concerns about the way the bill is worded that we would like to have the bill withdrawn," Sue Dunn, the president and CEO of Donor Alliance, said.
Dunn says Donor Alliance supports the concept of "presumed consent," but is opposed to the language in this bill and the lack of public discussion of the proposed change prior to its introduction into the legislature. They would like to see greater discussion by various groups, including religious organizations prior to any change to the law.
Colorado drivers currently sign up for organ and tissue donation at higher rates than in any other state. Dunn is concerned that the wording in this bill and the lack of public input could result in a backlash.
"It could perhaps backfire and harm those very people that are on the waiting lists," Dunn said.
The legislation was born from a request by three sisters with a strong connection to organ donation. Mercina, Glorianna and Charity Tilleman-Dick's father died in a 2008 auto accident and the donation of his organs helped save the lives of several people. In September 2009, Charity Tilleman-Dick was the recipient of a double-lung transplant that saved her life. She knows how important that organ donation meant in her life.
"You know it is hard. It is not an easy surgery. This is not something you do for kicks. You don't get a transplant unless you are going to die," Charity Tilleman-Dick said.
While the transplant saved her life, the three sisters know others on the transplant waiting lists are not as lucky.
"You realize that there is a really big problem, that there was a huge discrepancy between the number of organs that are needed for transplant and those that are available," Mercina Tilleman-Dick said.
In an effort to answer that concern, the three sisters asked Sen. Lucia Guzman (D-Denver) to carry legislation that would change the system. The "presumed consent" system for organ donation is common in Europe and is credited with dramatically raising organ donation rates.
Lawmakers in at least three states - Delaware, Illinois and New York - defeated similar legislation to the bill being considered in Colorado.
Under the current opt-in system used in Colorado, the wishes of the organ donor are the final word in determining whether or not organs will be donated. Even if a family member objects to the donation, the wishes of the donor take priority.
In Colorado and Wyoming, 1,982 people are currently waiting for a life-saving organ transplant.