The Daugaard administration wants changes intended to increase organ and tissue donation in South Dakota.
Lt. Gov. Matt Michels testified today to the Legislature's Senate State Affairs Committee. The state Department of Public Safety would be allowed to establish an online system for people to officially register as organ and tissue donors.
The legislation, HB 1217, from Gov. Dennis Daugaard could receive final legislative approval as early as Tuesday afternoon.
South Dakota currently allows people to list themselves as organ donors on their driver licenses and identification cards. That law was adopted in 2001 during then-Gov. Bill Janklow’s final term.
Michels, who was then a member in the House of Representatives, worked on that legislation. He noted today that Janklow’s corneas were donated after his death last year.
“I’m really, really wondering where they went. I’m sure the person has incredible vision,” Michels said.
Michels said Gov. Daugaard asked that South Dakota update its laws and policies to reflect the best practices used in other states. Michels said South Dakota’s enrollment of about 55 percent of citizens as organ donors is much better than the national average of 43 percent but the level has been stagnant here.
The goal of the legislation is to increase the percentage. Michels said one step is establishing the online registry so that people’s opportunity didn’t come only when they went to the driver license station.
One of the witnesses who testified today was state Corrections Secretary Dennis Kaemingk of Mitchell, who spoke from his family’s perspective after their son Jason, who was 15 at the time, suffered life-ending injuries when he was hit by a car 18 years ago. Parts of his body were donated for others’ needs.
“It is exciting to see us building on and refining these statutes,” Kaemingk said.