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Florida launches new organ and tissue donor registry

By Staff | Jul 28, 2009

Saving lives is about to get easier for Sunshine State residents thanks to the launch of Florida’s Joshua Abbott Organ and Tissue Donor Registry on July 28.

Named in memory of lung transplant recipient and donation advocate Joshua Abbott, who passed away in 2006, this registry replaces Florida’s original database, which no longer meets the state’s needs.

This new online registry allows residents to legally designate their wish to save lives as an organ or tissue donor from the comfort of their own home by visiting www.DonateLifeFlorida.org.

For years, the most convenient way to join Florida’s organ and tissue donor registry required a visit to a local driver license office to fill out paperwork. While registration will still be possible at driver license offices, individuals can now choose instead to register from anywhere they have internet access. Registrations will be secure, with registered donors able to update their wishes with a password whenever they like.

Florida’s organ, tissue and eye donor programs access the registry to determine if someone who has passed away made a decision about donation while living. If a person designated himself to be a donor, that decision is binding.

“Becoming an organ donor is a very personal and private decision,” said Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Holly Benson. “With direct access to the organ and tissue registry, more Floridians will be able to consider and make the decision to become a donor, ultimately saving more lives through donation and transplantation.”

The Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA) partnered with statewide non-profit organization – Donate Life Florida – to oversee the registry and donation related public education. Donate Life Florida is dedicated to empowering the public to save and enhance lives through organ and tissue donation as well as other lifesaving donations, such as blood and marrow. Funding for the registry comes from voluntary contributions to the HealthCare Trust Fund, namely the dollar donation Floridians make when obtaining or renewing a driver license or vehicle tag. It is not funded through general revenue.

“There are more than 3,600 patients waiting for an organ or tissue donation in Florida,” said Kathy Giery, chairwoman of Donate Life Florida. “The online registry will help organ recovery organizations identify potential donors more efficiently in order to save more lives.”

This registry is the result of several years of legislation, including SB 2630, sponsored by Senator Steve Oelrich, which was signed into law in June 2008.

“Efforts to increase awareness for organ and tissue donation are surely welcomed and needed,” said Senator Oelrich. “By increasing the awareness and accessibility through the registry, we will be able to save more lives.”

There is a national initiative underway within the donation community to raise the collective enrollment on all states’ donor registries to 100 million or 50 percent of all driver licenses issued. The initiative, called the Donor Designation Collaborative, is spearheaded by Donate Life America, a national alliance of donor programs and corporate partners. The campaign was launched in New Orleans in October 2006 when nationwide registry enrollment was approximately 60 million. That number has since climbed to nearly 80 million.

More than 102,000 patients are listed on the national organ transplant waiting list, and 18 people die every day without the organ they desperately need. Thousands more could benefit from life-enhancing tissue transplants.

Visit www.DonateLifeFlorida.org for more information.