NJ May Allow Teens to Become Organ Donors After Death
TRENTON — Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, D-Monmouth, has introduced legislation that would allow minors as young as 14 years old to register to donate their organs if they die.
Under the measure, the state Motor Vehicle Commission would be directed to ask the question when youngsters age 14, 15, 16 and 17 get a non-driver photo ID to operate a moped, their learner's permit or a provisional driver's license.
“Right now in New Jersey we limit our state’s ability to ask if you want to be a donor to those 18 and older, so we miss out on asking people younger than that, we miss out on that prompt,” O'Scanlon said
He explained the legislation would simply give people as young as 14 the option to express their preference about participating in the program, but nothing would be set in stone.
“This doesn’t mandate that they be organ donors. Parents will always have the final say if something, God forbid, happens,” he said.
O’Scanlon says making this change could have dramatic consequences moving forward.
“Organ donation is a life-saving act that most people would agree to if prompted. And sometimes an organ is more appropriate coming from one person of a similar age to another person,” he said. “You want those life saving options to be there."
Joe Roth, president and CEO of the New Jersey Sharing Network, strongly supports the legislation.
“One organ donor can save up to eight lives through transplant and impact upwards of 75 lives through tissue donation, so the multiplier of a donation is phenomenal,” he said. “And it is an amazing way to pay it forward, so to speak, to get some meaningful partial closure out of a tragic event.”
Roth pointed out O’Scanlon’s bill makes sense because in 2008 the Hero Act was signed into law in New Jersey, making education on organ donation mandatory in middle and high school.
“The legislation has been in effect for almost a decade and yet children have had to wait till their 18th birthday to indicate their intent to donate. I think this is just a natural follow-through,” he said.
He explained those under 18 can already sign up at the National Donate Life registry, but ultimately the decision about donating the organs and tissue of a minor is always up to their parents.
“So there would be no obligation. It’s just that the child has an opportunity to state his preference and the parents would hear that their child preferred to be an organ donor.”
O’Scanlon pointed out almost 5,000 New Jersey residents are waiting for an organ transplant right now
“We have a dearth of organs that are out there to be donated, and we have a long list of people who are waiting for organs, and the greater the population that’s registered for organ donation, the greater the chance to save a life,” he said.
“Many families come back to us after the donation, even though they weren’t quite sure about what they were doing, and become partners in our organization in terms of volunteers and thanking us for the opportunity to get some great meaning out of the donation,” said Roth. “It’s a very charitable act and it helps a family come to closure in some ways after a very tragic event.”
He pointed out someone dies every three days in New Jersey waiting for an organ transplant.