State lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to register as organ donors when they receive their driver's license or state identification card.
The proposal would give parents and legal guardians the authority to overturn their child's decision until age 18.
Secretary of State Jesse White's office said 47 states have similar legislation, including Indiana, Missouri, and Wisconsin. White's office said 300 people in Illinois die each year while waiting for an organ donor.
"Our goal is to save lives. Thousands of Illinoisans are on the waiting list for organs and we want to make sure that we do all we can to give them an opportunity to get a second chance at life or help to improve their quality of life," White said during a Thursday morning news conference.
"This is a meaningful program," White said. "This is all about helping your fellow man and woman and stepping up to the plate."
The bill was introduced by Sen. Mattie Hunter, D-Chicago, and Rep. Deb Conroy, D-Villa Park, whose husband is one of about 4,700 people in Illinois now in line to receive an organ donation.
"Organ donation is an interesting thing in that you really don't know the statistics about it until it affects your life," Conroy said. "It has affected my life and my four sons as their dad is waiting for an organ. It's a very difficult road for families, but with this legislation we can save more lives."
Now, donors must be at least 18 to join the state's organ and tissue donor registry.
Jacob Lenzini, 17, a junior at Maine South High School in Park Ridge, said he will register as an organ donor as soon as he can.
His father, Chris Lenzini, donated several organs after suddenly dying in November 2014.
"We'll never get to see my dad again and so to have a piece of him still alive and out there is a great thing to have," he said. "He was a great guy. Organ donation fit incredibly well with his personality and I think, really, it should fit well with everybody's personality."