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Giving Life: Has Your Teenager Considered Becoming an Organ Donor?

Getting your driver’s license also presents teenagers with an important opportunity: to decide whether to they are open to becoming an organ donor. My two kids signed up to become organ donors without a second thought when they got their driver’s licenses. Their receptive attitude is consistent with that of today’s young people, says James Pardes, vice president of marketing and communications for the organ donation nonprofit LiveOnNY. “Organ donation is a cause that teens and young adults are embracing,” he says, whereas it might not be as comfortable for their parents.

Becoming an Organ Donor

So why donate? Here are a few facts to consider about becoming an organ donor:

  • On any given day, 117,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant.
  • Nearly 2,000 of those waiting are children.
  • A donor can save up to eight lives with organ donation and can heal up to 75 lives with tissue donation.

Registries in nearly every state, plus in Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, allow teens to sign up before age 18 (typically at 16 or 17). However, until teens turn 18, parents have the right to revoke the decision. Pardes recommends that teens discuss their wishes with their families before they register.

Some people are unsure about registering because of misconceptions.

Be assured:

  • Medical professionals responsible for a teen’s care will do everything they can to save that child’s life. (And your medical team isn’t even associated with the donor team.)
  • Donation doesn’t cost the donor’s family anything.
  • Most major religions allow organ donation. Talk to your religious leader if you aren’t sure.

No one wants to think about worst-case scenarios, Pardes says. But for many families, knowing that their teen articulates a wish to help others can be a great source of comfort. Learn more at Donate Life America (, or register through your department of motor vehicle licensing.

Joanna Nesbit

Joanna Nesbit is a freelance writer based in the Pacific Northwest. She writes frequently about parenting and her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Family Fun, Parenting, and elsewhere.