Illinois Sec’y of State Jesse White: Why it’s important to become organ and tissue donors

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By Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White

Letter to Editor (July 16, 2010)


This year, August 1st marks the fourth annual National Minority Donor Awareness Day and I hope to motivate even more residents of Illinois to consider giving the ultimate gift of life. The point of observing National Minority Donor Awareness Day is to encourage people from various racial backgrounds and ethnic groups to educate themselves and realize why it is so important to become organ and tissue donors.

Minorities account for approximately 54 percent of the people on the national organ transplant list. Kidneys are needed the most as there are over 52,000 potential recipients waiting for kidney transplants alone. Many of the conditions leading to the need for a transplant – such as diabetes and high blood pressure – occur at a much higher rate among African Americans.

In 2009, there were 2,054 African American donors and 5,702 African American potential organ transplant recipients – clearly there is a large disparity. Due to the significance of genetic makeup, African Americans match better with a kidney donated from an African American than any other ethnic group. This is why I think it is so important that more people join the registry.

Presently, we are combating many falsehoods about what happens when people sign up to become organ donors.

  • It is a complete myth that doctors will not resuscitate a patient who is registered as an organ and tissue donor. On the contrary, doctors will do everything in their power to save lives. Organ and tissue donation can only be considered once brain death has been established.
  • Some believe their organs will end up on the black market while others fear not being able to have a proper funeral. This is not the case. Selling organs and tissue are illegal. As an organ and tissue donor, your body will remain intact and presentable for viewing.
  • Contrary to popular belief, every major religion in the United States supports organ, eye and tissue donation as one of the highest forms of humanity and compassion.

Essentially, there are very few reasons not to give. Consider the power you have in using your body to improve the lives of others. A single donor can save the lives of up to 25 other people.  Don’t hesitate, call (800) 210-2106, register online at or visit any Illinois Secretary of State Driver’s Facility. Remember, you must re-register if you signed up prior to January 1, 2006 as the system has changed since then.

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