Illinois plans to lower age requirement to be organ donor so that more lives can be saved

FOX 32 NEWS - Secretary of State Jesse White announced plans on Thursday to lower the age requirement to become an organ donor.

The hope is hundreds of thousands of people will be added to the pool of donors and more lives can be saved.

As a licensed driver in Illinois, we have the option to sign up to become organ donors. But for the youngest drivers, that is not the case. You have to be 18.

Now, Secretary of State Jesse White announced plans to change that, allowing 16 and 17 years olds to be part of the registry.

House bill 1805 would amend the current laws allowing these younger drivers to give consent to donate their organs and tissue at the time of their death. The only limitation is a parent or guardian must approve.

It’s estimated about 300 people die every year waiting for a donation.

Northwestern transplant surgeon Joseph Leventhal brings home just how serious it can be.

"The average waiting time for a kidney in this part of the country in the state of Illinois is more than 5-years. If you are on dialysis, your life expectancy is less than 50% after 5 years of dialysis. So you have a better chance of being dead than being alive when you finally come off based upon waiting time for an organ,” Leventhal said.

Angela and Daryl McCoy donated their teenaged son’s organs when he died. Jacob Lenzini, 17, recently met the man who received his father's heart when he passed away two years ago.

"In life, my dad gave some much to me and my sisters and my mom and everyone around him and even in death he is still giving to others and I think that's beautiful and magical and it's something that we all should do,” Lenzini said.

There are currently 6.1 million Illinoisans registered to become donors. By adding 300 thousand plus more, experts say that could substantially lower the waiting for thousands of people across the state.

Other states have similar laws. Supporters of the Illinois amendment hope it becomes state law no later than January of next year.