Student advocates in support of bill creating an opt-out organ donation system

Claire Allbright

The founder of a student-run advocacy group testified Thursday in support of a bill that would make adult driver’s license recipients organ donors by default.

Kelsey Mumford, a nursing and biology sophomore, said she started the organization after learning about different organ donation approaches in one of her classes. House Bill 1938, authored by state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, would switch Texas from having an opt-in system to an opt-out one. Mumford said this change would save lives.

“Texas has this huge opportunity right now to change the system and lead the way in America to save thousands of lives potentially by increasing donation rates,” Mumford said.

Mumford said after researching the bill more extensively, she held an information session about organ donation.

“Thirty kids showed up to hear me talk about organ donation for half an hour and I realized that a lot of students really are interested in this issue,” Mumford said.

From there, Mumford said her organization worked with Student Government to adopt a resolution in support of HB 1938 and circulated a survey throughout the UT community to gauge students’ support of the bill.

Mumford said the survey showed 75 percent of the 945 respondents were already organ donors and if HB 1938 was passed, 87 percent answered they wouldn’t opt out of the policy — a 12 percent increase in organ donors.

“We’re talking about the age group that’s … already the most likely to be donors … and you have a 12 percent increase,” Mumford said. “Think about the increases you could have in other age groups in Texas.”

Citing the survey during his public testimony, Micky Wolf, student body vice president, said the opt-out policy would change how society views organ donation.

“That this policy would improve the donation rates of the already best performing age group is a testament to its potential to alter the stigma and expectations around organ donation,” Wolf said. 

Those opposed to the bill said the opt-out language of the bill would be confusing since most policies, such as warranties, operate on opt-in systems.

“We oppose the bill because it would replace an effective and growing system with one that is confusing, controversial and would bar donation in many cases,” said Susie Miller, the executive director of the Glenda Dawson Donate Life Texas Donor Registry, a nonprofit organization founded by the Texas Legislature.

Mumford said countries around the world with opt-out policies have higher donations rates than the U.S.

“We only have a 48 percent registration rate, and that’s better than it was ten years ago, but we are still being beat by Spain — they have 13 percent higher rates than us,” Mumford said. “It’s almost a moral issue to take an interest in this. If there is a way to save lives, why aren’t we doing it?”

Villalba said while his bill is controversial, it is about saving lives. 

“Is it bold? Yes, we haven’t done this before,” Villalba said. “It’s a new step in the way we deal with this issue. But we’ve got to find ways to provide additional organs for people who are dying.”

The bill was left pending in the Transportation committee of the Texas House of Representatives.