New bill could add teens to Illinois organ donor registry

SILVIS, Illinois – The state of Illinois is one of a handful of states that does not allow anyone under 18 to register as organ donor but that could soon change.

Secretary of State Jesse White initiated legislation that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to register as donors when they first receive their driver’s license or identification card.

The legislation was introduced by state Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) and state Rep. Deb Conroy (D-Villa Park).

On Thursday, February 2, 2017 Illinois law makers proposed a bill that could expand the organ donation registry to 16- and 17-year-olds in the state.  Under current law, only people 18 and older can join.

“It's something we think young people at that age are mature enough to make that decision and would increase the registry,” said Press Secretary, David Druker from the Secretary of State Office

Currently, there are 4,700 people in Illinois waiting for an organ transplant. This plan could add 350,000 potential donors to the registry.

Tyler McNeal, 19 waited three years to find the perfect car before getting a driver’s license. On February 7, 2017 Tyler passed his written and driving exam.

Tyler says the easiest part of the DMV process was the choice to become an organ donor. This proposed legislation would also allow other young teens to have the choice of organ donation.

“If there are more young people on the registry then there is a possibility others could get a transplant faster,” said Tyler.

Tyler's mother, Diane McNeal says her friend waited years to get a liver transplant but is alive today because of a donor.

“They have life because of it. So, what are we here for? To help each other,” said McNeal through tears.

If the bill passes, thousands of Illinois teens could have the choice to become a donor but parents or guardians would still have the final say and could axe the teen’s decision to donate their organs.

Those opposing the bill say Illinois should be working on a state budget instead of a law that in the end, parents can override their teen’s decision.

The bill still needs to pass through the house and senate and get the governor's signature.

Currently, 6.1 million Illinoisans are registered with the state’s registry. Illinois has been a leader in the organ donor program compared to other states around the country.

There are 47 states that have enacted a similar type of legislation.