Amy Oliver

I am an organ donor. The little red heart in the bottom right hand corner of my driver’s license alerts medical personnel to my wishes in case of my death.

My husband is not.  He is not comfortable with the idea of someone harvesting his organs should he be pronounced “brain dead.” My 17-year-old son agreed to be an organ donor when he got his license. Recently he changed his mind and his status. I understand their unease.  It’s one thing to give a kidney to a family member but having organs removed from your body because a doctor said you have no brain activity is another. It does not change my mind, but I respect their decision on their own bodies.

Organ donation is an incredibly personal decision with differing opinions within families, and it is no place for government. But that has not stopped the Department of Health and Human Services this year from using more than $1 million of your tax dollars to target specific populations including teens, families and ethnic minorities to increase the percentage of organ donors.

The University of Hawaii Manoa recently received a $196,606 grant to increase the percentage of Asian-American/Pacific Islander adolescents in Hawaii who are designated organ donors on their state-issued driver’s licenses or identification cards.

The project titled “Multimedia Intervention to Motivate Ethnic Teens to be Designated Donors” is “theoretically-derived intervention [that] will include culturally sensitive messages and information about being a designated donor [DD] that will be delivered via a DVD, Email, text/instant messaging, slam poetry, and webpages (e.g.,”

According to the project description, the “primary outcome is objectively validated donor status on a teens' driver's license/ID or donor card after 12 months of intervention. A secondary outcome is the reported rate of family discussions about organ donation and knowledge/intentions about donation.”

The project coordinators hypothesize that MySpace and rap music can make organ donation appeal to Hawaiian kids.  It concludes with this wish, “If IMI methods can increase the number of minority teens who become a DD on their driver’s license by 10% would translate to 500,000 more teenage designated donors in the U.S.”

Maybe to government or the University of Hawaii, these 500,000 additional teenagers are simply a statistic; but they also represent individual sons and daughters. I certainly sympathize with those waiting for organ transplants; still it does not justify pressuring teenagers into agreeing to give up their body parts. 

Amy Oliver

Amy Oliver is the founder of Mothers Against Debt (MAD) for the Be the first to read Amy Oliver's's column. Sign up today and receive delivered each morning to your inbox.