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New law lets residents sign up through tax forms

A group of Gift of Life staff, transplant recipients and legislators gathers around Governor Whitmer, who is seated at her desk and holding up the signed Check Your Heart Act

Michigan residents who haven’t yet added their names to the Michigan Organ Donor Registry will have a new and easy way to do so in 2024.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the Check Your Heart Act into law in July, making Michigan the first state in the country to enable residents to add their names to the Donor Registry on their state income tax forms.

They can do so in the spring as they complete their forms for the 2023 tax year.

Sherry Johnson, one of more than 100 patients waiting in Michigan for a heart transplant, said she’s proud that Michigan was able to be a leader with the new law.

“Sometimes we want to do something and just don’t get around to it,” she said. “This will give residents a chance once a year to join the Michigan Organ Donor Registry.”

Group of patients waiting for organ transplants carrying a banner reading "Waiting to Live" along the Capitol sidewalkSherry received her first heart transplant 17 years ago. Her gift allowed her to watch her two boys grow up. “I was given these years by a registered donor and her supportive family. I hope this new legislation will give more people like me a chance to create memories with their families. I am grateful for every day.”

The Donor Registry has struggled due to the change to 12-year renewal cycles for Michigan driver’s licenses.

“We’re so hopeful residents will check the box as they file their taxes next year,” said Dorrie Dils, president and CEO of Gift of Life Michigan. “We hope that adding this new and easy way for residents to document their decision will grow the Donor Registry and save the lives of people like Sherry.”

About 2,400 patients in Michigan are waiting for transplants today. Roughly 80% are waiting for a kidney, followed by a liver, heart, lungs and various combinations of more than one organ. Other organs that can be transplanted are intestines and pancreas.

The bills were sponsored by representatives Felicia Brabec of Pittsfield Township, Cynthia Neeley of Flint, and Natalie Price of Berkley. The Michigan Department of Treasury supported the legislation.

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