LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Starting July 1, those applying for a driver’s license, renewing a license or adjusting to an expired license will have a much easier time signing up as organ donors.
All this thanks, at least partially, to a kid who isn’t even of legal driving age.
Elliott Whisenant, a junior at Free State High School, said he simply saw a problem, identified a solution and worked with State Rep. Tom Sloan to help make Kansas House Bill 2472 - which lessens restrictions on organ donations - a legal reality.
The bill was signed into law last month after receiving unanimous votes in both the House and Senate.
“I didn’t really think of it as a Democratic or Republican issue,” Whisenant, 15, said of the bill drafted by Sloan.
The teen “doesn’t remember much” about his long-term goals when he first approached Sloan almost exactly one year ago. He does, however, remember re-reading the 2008 book “Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness,” by University of Chicago economist Richard H. Thaler and Harvard Law School professor Cass R. Sunstein.
Last year, when reading the book again, Whisenant thought back to the section on opt-out organ donation. “Presumed consent” laws have already been implemented in several European countries and even a few U.S. states, including New York and Illinois. The concept behind the laws is simple - government can “nudge” people toward donating their organs after death simply by changing the default option from “no” to “yes.”
“I thought, ‘Well, this is a good idea.’ It’s minimal effort, and it’s of very large benefit. So why don’t we see if it’s currently in place?” Whisenant told The Lawrence Journal-World . “And it was not. So I thought, ‘Well, I’ll just send an email out to the legislators, just ‘cause.’”
Sloan responded to his email and arranged to meet with Whisenant over coffee. The soon-to-be-retired Lawrence Republican said it was too late to introduce the initiative for the 2017 session, but agreed to work on a bill for 2018. He said he’d use Whisenant’s 10-page research document as a reference when drafting the bill, Whisenant remembers....And then, the teen testified in support of the bill in both the Kansas House and Senate, to positive reception, earlier this year.“What I thought, and almost all the committee members agreed, is that it’s a good bill,” Whisenant said, adding, “The chairman of the House also said that my presentation was almost on par with some of the professional presentations by the lobbyists who come in there, and that they were very impressed about how prepared I was.”The bill, effective July 1, removes the requirement that driver’s license holders must sign a form in the presence of two witnesses if they wish to become organ donors. Instead, the