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Omaha teen working to lower organ donation age limit

January 29, 2021

Marigold Helvey has a lofty goal: to lower Nebraska’s minimum age allowed to register as an organ and tissue donor from 16 to 14.

Marigold is tackling the issue as part of her Girl Scout Gold Award project aimed at addressing the need for more pediatric organ and tissue donation and to bring more awareness and information about this need among teens.

“I think it is heartbreaking that some people who need a transplant have to wait a long time. And I am passionate about helping to make a difference.”

Marigold Helvey

With the help of Senator Machaela Cavanaugh, LB 251 has been introduced in the Nebraska Legislature.

LB 251 would allow teens age 14 and over to register and declare their wishes to be an organ and tissue donor. As with current donation law, the registration would not be legally binding until the registrant reaches age 18.

“I think it is a good idea to lower the donation registration age because there are a lot of children who are on the waiting list for a transplant, and other youth can be a better match for them. If more teens have this conversation with their parents, it could lead to more organ donation and even spread the word to adults,” Marigold said.

Marigold, 14, is anxiously awaiting her February birthday and the opportunity to get her learner’s permit. She was disappointed to learn that she wouldn’t be eligible to register as a donor for another year.

“I learned that you have to be 16 in Nebraska,” said Marigold. “When you are a minor, your parents still have the final decision, but it is still really important for teens to share their wishes and get registered.”

As part of her research, Marigold has learned that many other states allow donation registration before age 16, some as early as age 13. The process to approve her project included submitting a proposal to the Girl Scouts. She’s also met with Senator Cavanaugh and collected letters of support from physicians and other teens.

“I hope LB 251 will pass into law and have a lasting impact,” said Marigold. “And that it will save lives and bring more awareness among teens.”

If LB 251 does pass, the impact it will have on Marigold could last well into her future.

Marigold says she’s wanted to be a doctor—in particular a transplant surgeon—ever since she was little.

“I think it is amazing that doctors can use someone else’s organs to save someone else’s life,” she said.

“I am also addicted to Grey’s Anatomy, and I love the parts that show the happiness after the patient receives an organ donation and also how it affects the donor’s family.”

Get Involved

Testimony for LB 251 will be heard on Thursday, February 4. If you would like to show your support for Marigold and the bill, visit the Nebraska Legislature website and click the Submit Comments Online for LB 251 button.

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