Teen’s death sheds new light on organ donation in NJ
The death of a Hillsborough teenager, killed when he was punched in the head, has given at least six other people a new lease on life. But due to medical "rule-outs," less than 1 percent of New Jersey deaths result in organ donation.
That statistic defies the 34 percent of Garden State residents who are registered organ donors on their driver's licenses, and 65 percent who give bedside consent to their loved ones to be donors. In the case of 17-year-old Jared Colon, who died last year, his two kidneys have been donated to two men in their 30s, and four of his heart valves were given to pediatric patients.
"Organ donation is a very complex process, and it is a very rare opportunity," said Elisse Glennon, director of external affairs for the New Jersey Sharing Network. "Someone needs to be very healthy when they pass, and they have to be on a ventilator in the hospital in order for the organs to stay functioning for transplant, so even though people are willing, there is not always an opportunity to donate."
Despite the low registration numbers, 90 percent of Americans believe in organ donation and want to participate. Yet the Garden State ranks 40th out of the 50 states. There are many reasons people opt out of donor registry, according to Glennon.
"There are many myths and superstitions," she said. "Some people think if it's on their driver's license, they may get hit by a bus the next day. While that is very far-fetched, it is a barrier. What we tell people is to discuss their wishes with their family. That way, in the event that they are presented with the opportunity, they will know and understand what those wishes are."
Those who wish to become organ donors can register online, though technical glitches have sometimes hindered that process.
"We often hear about people who tried to register and checked the box on their license renewal on the Motor Vehicle Commission's (MVC) website, and when they get their license they find out they are not registered," Glennon said.
Anyone interested in becoming a donor can also simply walk into an MVC agency and fill out a form. However, non-drivers who want to register currently do not have a box to check on the non-driver identification application.
In an effort to increase the number of organ donors, Sen. Robert Singer (R-Lakewood) plans to introduce legislation to streamline the state's organ donor registry system to make it easier for residents to sign up as donors. The bill would also bring the state's records systems up-to-date.
Under the legislation, MVC's online registry program would be simplified to make it easier for donors to sign up. The legislation would also add the option to be an organ donor on the application for non-driver's license state identification cards.
Click here to learn more about becoming an organ donor.