Cheyenne — The number one reason people don’t sign up to be an organ, eye and tissue donor on their driver’s license is they think they can’t. This tendency to rule oneself out as a candidate for organ and tissue donation is the subject of a new campaign due to hit driver’s license offices in Wyoming in mid-May, 2013
Research conducted over the last several years confirms that most non-donors think their age, health conditions or lifestyle prevent them from signing up to donate. For example, some conclude that because they aren’t able to donate blood, they cannot donate anything. Others assume that a chronic health condition such as diabetes means they wouldn’t be a good candidate. Still others believe you must be young and in top shape to be a good organ donor.
Robert Austin, the manager of public and professional relations at the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank, stresses that no one should make those judgments. “Anyone can sign up on the state’s donor registry — regardless of age, health or lifestyle,” Austin said. “At the time of death, transplant professionals will evaluate which organs and tissues can actually be used to help others.”
One example of how things change is LASIK surgery, which uses lasers to correct a person’s vision. “Five years ago, someone who had LASIK couldn’t be an eye tissue donor,” Austin said, “but advances in transplant techniques have changed that today.” The implication is that if someone had decided they couldn’t be a donor based on that old information, the opportunity to cure blindness in someone else through eye donation would be lost. “It’s best to just decide if you want to help others by becoming a donor and leave the decisions to medical professionals down the road,” Austin said.
Currently, 59 percent of Wyoming residents sign up to be a donor when obtaining or renewing a driver’s license. In 2012, that rate ranked fourth in the nation. “I think that says a lot about the people in this state,” Austin said, “We know they’re a giving bunch. Hopefully, this campaign will nudge those who hold themselves back to go ahead and sign up to help others.”
The campaign was developed by the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank and is based, in part, on focus group research conducted by the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center at the University of Wyoming. The Wyoming Department of Transportation, the Wyoming Department of Health and Donor Alliance, a federally designated organ procurement organization for the region, collaborated to get the ads into the driver’s license offices.
The Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank’s is the nonprofit organization responsible for the recovery and transplantation of donated eye tissues in all of Wyoming except for Uinta, Sweetwater and Lincoln counties. Those counties are serviced by the Utah Lions Eye Bank. The Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank’s mission is to fulfill the wishes of eye donors and their families to help another overcome blindness through transplantation and research.