New law requires organ donation education in Ohio public schools

The Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. (Provided via Ohio Department of Development)

Athens teen Emmalyn Brown was only 9 years old when her liver suddenly failed. Had it not been for the generosity of a donor, she would’ve died in three days.

Since her transplant, Brown, now 19, has been actively campaigning for increased awareness and registration of organ donors in Ohio. As part of a project her junior year at Athens High School, Brown reached out to former State Rep. Debbie Phillips to begin work on new legislation that would require schools to teach about the positive effects of organ donation.

“I (saw) a pattern of folks who didn’t understand donation or who held strange myths about it, especially in isolated communities across the state,” Brown said. “I realized that if they had more education on donation, maybe from a third party, they would understand it better.”

Brown worked closely with Phillips and Lifeline of Ohio, an organization she volunteered with, to give input on the proposed legislation. After almost four years, Brown is excited to finally see the bill become law.

The legislation requires that every Ohio public school educates students on the positive effects of organ donation. It was an amendment added to House Bill 438, which outlines public school appreciation week.

“As a retired teacher, I’ve always been very sensitive to young students and their need for education on a wide variety of fronts,” said State Rep. John Patterson, who was the sponsor of HB438. “Organ donation is one of those things that all of us ought to be educated about.”

The law allows for schools to instruct on organ donation in whatever way is convenient to them, Patterson said, which is typically in a health class.

2010 study found 90 percent of Ohioans reported being in favor of organ and tissue donation, but only 54 percent of eligible citizens are actually registered in the Ohio Donor Registry.

“It is our hope that through education more students as they age into their adulthood are more inclined to become organ donors,” Patterson, an OU alumnus, said. “It only seems logical to educate our young people on the possibilities of the gift that keeps on giving.”

Greg Haylett, a fifth-year senior studying biological science, said he wished a similar program was in place when he was in high school.

“As long as it’s (an) unbiased thing, I couldn’t see a downside to it,” Haylett, an organ donor, said. “It could be a positive thing because that’s a decision everyone has to make when they get their license.”

Brown said she hopes this legislation debunks myths and stigmas associated with organ donation and ultimately increases organ donation registration.

“There are no cons to organ donation in my book — only pros,” Brown said. “It has saved my life and many people I know. Organ donation is something that makes sense to me as you can help others after your own death.”

@AbbeyMarshall

am877915@ohio.edu

Originally published for The Post on Sept. 8, 2017.

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