New Michigan Driver’s License May Help Boost Organ Donation Numbers In The State

This guest post is by Sam R. Watson, senior vice president, Patient Safety and Quality at the Michigan Health & Hospital Association and executive director of the MHA Keystone Center for Patient Safety & Quality.

April is Donate Life month, and a timely release of the new Michigan driver’s license has the potential to add significantly to the Michigan Organ Donor Registry this month and beyond.

The Secretary of State office recently began issuing a newly designed driver’s license and personal identification card that will place a “donor” heart designation in the lower right of the license to indicate an individual has joined the Michigan Organ Donor Registry.

The new license design will no longer include an area for people to sign that indicates they want to be an organ, tissue and eye donor. Even though the “heart insignia law” took effect more than four years ago, many Michigan residents still mistakenly thought they had joined the organ donor registry by signing the back of their license. The new license design from Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s office helps to correct this common misconception. Space on the back of the card has also been provided for a Medical Alert box. By marking an “x” in the box, the cardholder alerts emergency responders that they are carrying a separate emergency medical card.

New Secretary of State Procedures Will Boost Organ Donation, Save Lives

In addition to the license design changes, during the first-ever State of the Secretary of State address, Johnson announced the establishment of a new Secretary of State branch policy requiring employees, when time permits, to ask customers if they are interested in joining the Michigan Organ Donor Registry.

Current policy requires customers to initiate the registration process by telling the department clerk they want to join the registry, relying on printed and promotional materials to raise awareness. A direct question from the clerk will serve to remind citizens of the opportunity to save lives through organ donation and increase the number of registered donors.

Additional efforts to boost the percentage of donors in Michigan include adding reminders to some of the most widely distributed forms and applications at Secretary of State offices and convening an advisory committee to discuss ways to develop innovative, yet cost-effective, approaches to promote organ, tissue and cornea donation. Johnson is conducting news conference around the state and using social media to raise awareness.

MHA Keystone: Gift of Life Focuses on Organ Donation

A recent report shows that 27 percent of Michigan adults were on the Michigan Organ Donor Registry at the end of 2010, compared to the national average of 40 percent. At the same time, nearly 3,000 people in Michigan are on the waiting list for a lifesaving organ transplant, and thousands more are in need of cornea and tissue transplants to help them regain sight and mobility. Through the MHA Keystone: Gift of Life collaborative, the MHA Keystone Center for Patient Safety & Quality and Michigan hospitals are strong supporters of improving the organ donation rate. In 2010, Michigan hospitals generated 11,800 new signatures on the Michigan Organ Donor Registry, a significant proportion of the record-setting 319,000 new donors who registered during the year.

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