Catherine Faimon | Publisher
A new law will take effect July 1, for which all Kansans of driving
age should understand. Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson signed into
law House Bill 2486, that changes the statewide organ and tissue
donor registry from a first-person intent, to first-person consent.
Before this law was passed, it was left to the license holder to
talk to family members about the desire or intent to become an organ
donor, in the event of an untimely death. With the new law, a person
who says “yes” to having their name placed on the Kansas
organ and tissue donor registry, at the time of obtaining or renewing
a driver’s license, will be legally bound to allow an organ
procurement organization to harvest that person’s organs upon
their death. Family members of that person will not be involved
in decisions regarding organ donation, unless the person is under
age 18, as the registry will be a binding document in the court
House Bill No. 2486 was amended and signed into law in May, after
proponent of the bill, Midwest Transplant Network (MTN) CEO Rob
Linderer, introduced it to the Senate Committee on Public Health
Linderer, along with attorneys for MTN and the National Kidney Foundation,
said the amendment “would strengthen and clarify the provisions
of the Kansas Uniform Anatomical Gift Act regarding decisions to
donate anatomical gifts prior to death and that the first-person
registry would provide a more effective mechanism for donors to
have their desires concerning the donation of organs registered
In an interview with The Herald-Chronicle last week, Linderer
said, “A first-person consent registry upholds an individual’s
decision to donate as legally-binding and assures that no one can
overturn or disregard the individual’s decision.
“The passage of new legislation in Kansas, transferring the
statewide registry to first-person consent is a milestone in fulfilling
Midwest Transplant Network’s mission,” he said. “What
better way to celebrate the power to gift life and honor donors
and their families than new laws fully respecting an individual’s
Midwest Transplant Network Media and Relations Specialist Erin Gregory
told The Herald-Chronicle, “With first person registry, nobody
can disregard a person’s wishes. It is legally binding for
Midwest Transplant, it’s legally binding for the hospitals,
and legally binding for the loved ones. An individual can certainly
change their mind, you can take your name off the registry or join
the registry, all through our website. This is a way to let your
loved ones know what your decision is.”
How to register
Beginning July 1, Kansans who obtain a new driver’s license
or renew their license, will be asked at that time if they want
to place their name on the donor registry. The symbol of a heart
and the words “Organ Donor” will be added to the license,
and their name will be added to the new registry.
Linderer indicated there are approximately 500,000 Kansans whose
names appear on the current registry, although some of those names
may be duplicates or people who have died or moved out of state.
He said, “We are hoping that the new Kansas registry will
be up and operational by Sept. 1. All Kansans who have previously
signed up in the intent registry will need to re-register on the
consent registry. No names will be transferred from the old registry
to the new registry without active participation of an individual.”
Linderer said instead of his organization being the sole proprietor
of the registry, they have opted to contract with an outside firm
in Jefferson City, Mo., to maintain the database. “We want
to hold ourselves accountable and be trustworthy in the public’s
eye,” he said.
Another way to add your name to the registry is to visit www.mwtn.org,
download and fill out the enrollment form and mail or fax to Midwest
A separate website, www.DonateLifeKansas.org, will also be set up
by Sept. 1, and will have an e-mail address for correspondence related
to signing up or removing a name from the registry.
Removing your name
Once a person’s name is entered into the new registry, they
become legally bound to donate their organs and tissue, in the event
of being declared brain dead, or if death is imminent. A donor may
revoke the gift by directly accessing the registry website, where
they will be asked to put into writing, their desire to be removed.
To maintain authenticity of a person’s desires, MTN will have
a procedure in place to validate the person’s request.
The symbol will remain on the driver’s license until the next
renewal date, and should not be marked through. A new license, one
without the symbol, may be obtained at local Department of Motor
Vehicles offices, for a fee.
Misperceptions about organ donation
One of the most common misperceptions about organ and tissue donation
held by the public is that a patient’s level of care in a
hospital would be diminished, if the doctors knew the patient wanted
to donate organs and tissues.
“The staff at the hospital who are responsible for taking
care of a patient coming into the hospital … are totally different
than the staff from my organization, or a transplant team, who would
be involved with removing the organs,” Linderer said. Strict
federal and state regulations are in place, for hospital staff,
as well as for organ procurement staff, to prevent conflicts of
interest among the groups.
“A physician who is in attendance at the time of a patient’s
death cannot participate in the procedures for removing an organ
or transplanting an organ or a part into another patient at that
hospital. The reality is, there’s only about one percent of
patients who die that can be organ donors,” he said. “It’s
quite an amazing statistic when you look at the number of overall
“There is a tremendous shortage of organs and people die every
day on the waiting list. Out of the 22,000 death referrals that
take place in our service area, only approximately 200 are able
to be organ donors, and another 700 are able to donate some type
Another misperception is that a person who has donated organs and
tissues is unable to have an open casket funeral.
“The experience we’ve had is that the typical attire
a person is clothed with at an open casket funeral situation, does
not interfere with organ or tissue donation,” Linderer said.
“We talk with families at the time the donation is proceeding,
to find out what their plans are for funeral arrangements, even
to the extent of their loved one’s attire for the funeral.
For example, if they wanted to bury their loved one in a short sleeve
shirt, we would not take bones or tissues from the lower arms that
would interfere with the ability to wear that attire.”
About Midwest Transplant Network
Midwest Transplant Network is an organ procurement organization,
founded in 1973. The not-for-profit corporation employs approximately
100 full-time staff and another 25 part-time employees. Its territory
serves Kansas and the western two-thirds of Missouri. The company’s
mission is to save lives through organ and tissue donation and transplantation.
Midwest Transplant Network strives to educate and inform the community
about the need for transplantation.
Midwest Transplant Network is in the process of updating its website
and educational materials to reflect information specific to this
new law in Kansas.
Linderer said MTN staff will meet with Kansas Department of Motor
Vehicle management staff and county treasurer staff in the near
future, to “bring them up to speed” and provide brochures
and information about this change in Kansas law.
For more information, call (888) 744-4531, or visit www.mwtn.org.