Wednesday, July 03, 2002

New rules aid organ donations

Registry makes donor's choice final

By Nathan Leaf,
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — Ryan Zinn owes his life to the family of a 21-year-old man who died in a car accident.

        Although the deceased man was a qualified organ donor, his family could have kept Mr. Zinn from a desperately needed heart transplant simply by saying “no.”

        On Tuesday, Mr. Zinn gathered with Lt. Gov. Maureen O'Connor and state health and motor vehicles officials to kick off the state's new organ donor registry. The new registry seeks to increase transplants by taking final decisions out of family members' hands.

        Ohioans who want to sign up as organ donors when they renew their drivers licenses can now make their decisions legally binding, thanks to a new law approved by the General Assembly.

        “Many families consumed with grief may be unable to discuss or decide what should be done once a loved one passes away,” Ms. O'Connor said.

        Julie Stebbins, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Public Safety, said the new system will let Ohioans give legal consent for organ recovery any time they get or renew drivers licenses or ID cards.

        They will be entered into the state's registry automatically. Anyone who wants to register before they renew their licenses can pick up a form from a local deputy registrar or download it fromthe Bureau of Motor Vehicle's Web site.

        The new registry also will let organ recovery agencies access to donor information whenever they need it.

        “It will allow us to respect a person's wishes and at the same time give life to other people,” said Mark Sommerville, assistant director of LifeCenter, the organ recovery agency for Southwest Ohio.

        Mr. Sommerville said grieving families have stopped organ donations in the past.

        Five families have vetoed individuals' wishes to donate their organs in LifeCenter's district this year. The area averages 80 annual qualified donors.

        There are 267 people awaiting transplants in Southwest Ohio, a number that Mr. Sommerville says has been steadily increasing.

        Mr. Sommerville said that as of July 1 there have been 23 organ donations made to his agency in 2002.

        Mr. Zinn, 29, of Worthington, said he has had friends who died waiting for a transplant. He said he could have died, too.

        At the age of 14, doctors discovered Mr. Zinn had been afflicted with an unknown virus that weakened his heart. Luckily, Mr. Zinn waited only 17 days before a suitable donor was found.

        “I was given six months to live,” Mr. Zinn said. “At that point it was either receive the heart or prepare myself to die.”


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