July 17, 2024

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Required organ donation education could be coming to Michigan schools

3 min read

LANSING, Mich. (WILX) – Organ donation advocates want Michigan teens to know more about what it means to be a donor.

Nonprofit organization Gift of Life Michigan brought organ recipients, living donors and donor families together on the State Capitol lawn on Wednesday to rally in support of organ donation education in public schools.

If passed, a proposal in the state legislature would require all 9th graders to receive information about organ, eye and tissue donation, in hopes of helping them make a decision about whether or not they’ll add their name to the organ donor registry when they get their driver’s license.

Among the group of advocates for the bill was the family of Justin Shilling, who was killed in a shooting at Oxford High School in 2021.

“Justin was a giver,” said Shilling’s mother, Jill Soave. “Spending his final moments protecting another student and saving six lives with his gifts.”

Making the choice to become an organ donor shortly before his death, Soave said her son’s organs made it possible for six people to continue living their lives. She’s hoping Justin’s story will encourage lawmakers to ensure Michigan teens have all the information they need before making the choice to become a donor, like Justin’s younger brother, Clay, who added his own name to the organ donor registry at 16-year-old.

“Organ donation will always be an important part of many peoples’ lives, giving them a chance to continue their own, and having the opportunity to choose to be a donor could be the biggest blessing for someone in need,” he said from the steps of the State Capitol.

Also rallying in support of the proposal was Carla Bussell. She finally received new lungs in 2020, after years of suffering through a painful illness.

“I was on the list for six years,” she told News 10. “I needed a double lung transplant.”

Bussell came close to getting her transplant on three separate occasions before her procedure. Each time she arrived at the hospital, ready and eager for surgery, she would find out the donated lungs were no longer healthy, making the relief of finally receiving a new organ, even greater. Bussell said the chance to keep living has changed her family forever and inspired her teenage son to become a donor when he’s old enough.

“And he’s already told me, years ago,” she said. “He’s going to be 15 and he’s like, if anything happens to me mom, give my organs away, because he knows. He saw me struggle.”

Gift of Life reports that about 60% of Michigan adults are registered organ donors but the organization wants to see that number grow. Advocates are hoping the stories shared by organ recipients, living donors and donor families, will encourage lawmakers to help make it happen.

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