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Bill proposes required organ donation education

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Every day, around 20 people die waiting for an organ donation across the U.S. Meanwhile, more than 40 percent of Ohioans aren’t registered organ donors, according to Lifeline of Ohio’s Media and Public Relations Coordinator Jessica Petersen.

To help encourage people to register as organ donors, a bill was introduced in the Ohio House earlier this April that would require education about the benefits of organ donation in health curriculums in schools.

The bill, which was introduced by Reps. Cheryl Grossman, R-Grove City, and Debbie Phillips, D-Albany, would help spread information and address rumors about organ and tissue donation, one of the largest challenges donor recruiters face when encouraging people to register, Petersen said.

“We go out to schools to speak to freshman and sophomore classes right before they’re getting their license to educate them about organ donation, but we can’t do that with everyone,” she said.

Some of the most prominent myths Petersen and Lifeline of Ohio have encountered include the beliefs that some people are too old to donate organs, that organ donation costs the family of the donor money and that organ donors receive worse treatment in the case of an emergency.

However, Petersen said none of these are true.

“We find that there is a lot of miseducation out there, there’s a lot of myths so we work hard everyday to bust those myths,” Petersen said. “We try to get as many advocates on our side as we can, so while we have a small staff out there along with the other (organ procurement organizations) trying to educate, it’s wonderful when people advocate on our behalf and spread the word in their own hometowns.

According to Lifeline of Ohio, around 3,300 people are currently waiting on organ donations in Ohio. That number varies slightly depending on where the information is coming from and can change greatly from month to month, but possible donations are consistently rare.

“Organ donation is very rare because only one percent of the population dies in a manner that organ donation is possible,” Petersen said. “You have to be in the hospital on a ventilator, you have to die of brain death in order to be an organ, so it’s rare and only about 28,000 nationally happen a year.”

The bill was referred to the House Education Committee on April 14 and is awaiting its first hearing.

“Your life will be extended in someone else. You’re giving the gift of life. It’s a charitable act,” Petersen said. “It’s viewed by many people as their last charitable act: they’re helping to save someone’s life.”

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