United States Resources


There are several organizations involved with the education of students abut organ donation. The following diagram describes their inter-relationship with each other.

The Department of Health and Human Services

Decision: Donation—A School Program That Gives the Gift of Life (www.organdonor.gov)

This program was created in response to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' former Secretary, Tommy G. Thompson's, vision of a model instructional package for high schools that will educate the nation's youth about the importance of organ and tissue donation and the need to make an informed decision about whether to be a donor and share their donation wishes with their families.

This multifaceted set of materials—print, video, CD-ROM, and web-based—can be used by both public and private educators to integrate the topic of organ and tissue donation into existing curriculum and training programs.

Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)

HRSA make available information regarding organ donation

Through their program “Donate Life” HRSA has initiated “The organ donation breakthrough collaborative in 2003” and “The National Donation Campus Challenge in 2009”.

At least two studies related to donor awareness among high-school students were supported by “The Breakthrough Collaborative”:

Grantee: University of Washington and Hope Heart Institute, Seattle, WA
Project Title: A Multicultural Urban High School Intervention Program

Building upon previously published piloted studies conducted by the investigators, a culturally-sensitive health education intervention will employ quasi-experimental techniques to evaluate the effectiveness of a 40-minute health education session design to measure students’ knowledge, opinions, and behaviors related to the organ donation/transplantation process. This classroom-based intervention is to be administered separately in 12 Seattle area high schools selected for their racial/ethnic and income diversity. The TransTheoretical Model, or Stages of Change framework, will be applied through a 33-item questionnaire self-administered to students in randomly selected classes within each school. Indicators of behavioral change will be tracked and measured at pre- and post-tests periods in the treatment and control groups.

Grantee: Upstate New York Transplant Services and State University of New York, Buffalo, NY
Project Title: "Talk It Up:" Students and Families Discussing Organ Donation

Through a teacher training program and a class-assigned family interview, the project provides high school students with the knowledge and incentive to promote family discussion and shared decision-making about organ donation. The approach includes a post-discussion "debriefing" session, as well as the use of a take-home study guide and a resource manual.

HRSA sponsored breakthrough collaborative supported research details at: http://www.organdonor.gov/dtcp/projectsreviewed.html

This latest program involves the partnership between several OPOs, Universities and HRSA to spread education about organ donation in university campuses.

School-based Interventions (www.organdonor.gov/dtcp/interventionreport.html)

The information summarizing findings of HRSA funded grants on organ donation education in schools from 1999-2003 is available on their website. These interventions have focused on educating school-aged children in high-school settings. These educational interventions have been done in three different contexts: health education classes, driver's education classes, and through the internet.

A traditional classroom-based intervention was conducted in Buffalo. This began with the development of an organ donation curriculum to educate teachers about the issue. The project then contrasted the effect of having the project team lead classroom presentations and discussions against teacher-led programs. Compared to control groups, pre/post-test surveys demonstrated that both groups did equally well in increasing student knowledge and willingness to donate organs. Especially innovative was the component that required students to interview their parents about their views of donation. This part of the intervention had a substantial impact on parents' donation-related behaviors: 20% of parents reported having signed a donor card as a result, with another 46% reporting that they would now "seriously consider" becoming an organ donor. As with smoking cessation and seat belt use, it appears that organ donation may be another issue where young people have a strong influence on their parents' attitudes.

In the Washington, D.C. area, 15 diverse schools participated in a drivers' education program. Half of the schools were assigned to a control condition, while the other half received a 90-minute educational program consisting of videos, presentation of factual information about organ donation, and open discussions. Both groups were given t-shirts and other incentives for their participation in the study. Results, however, were mixed. Both the control and intervention groups increased in their intent to donate, as measured by pre/post surveys. (Pre-test surveys were administered two weeks before the intervention and post-tests were administered immediately after the intervention.) However, knowledge did increase in one set of intervention group schools (n = 5).

An educational web-based intervention targeting children was developed by a Michigan team. "The Transplant Journey" leads users through the transplant process, highlighting both information about human biology as well as the impact of organ transplants on people's lives. Half the students were randomly assigned to a control group and were directed toward a website that provided information about the common cold. At the end of both educational units, students (N = 490) were given the opportunity to follow a link to the Michigan donor registry. Nearly 16% of the control group students followed the link to the registry, while almost 22% of the intervention group students took the opportunity to visit the registry. Although this difference did not prove to be statistically significant, pre/post-test comparisons on measures of knowledge, attitudes, and willingness to donate all showed a statistically significant advantage for the intervention group.

Other projects targeting school-aged children are currently in progress. The findings from these three projects are somewhat mixed and it remains to be seen which intervention elements are associated with the most favorable outcomes.

The Advisory Committee on Organ Transplantation (ACOT)

ACOT advises HRSA about various initiatives aimed at organ donation and has made the following recommendation in regard to education on organ donation:

“That the secretary of HHS, in concert with the Secretary of Education, should recommend to states that organ and tissue donation be included in core curriculum standards for public education as well as in the curricula of professional schools, including schools of education, schools of medicine, schools of nursing, schools of law, schools of public health, schools of social work, and pharmacy schools.

The Secretary of HHS, in collaboration with the Secretary of Education, should identify relevant core curriculum standards, and survey those courses and curricula that presently include education as to organ and tissue donation, with a view to promoting a model standard that can be broadly employed in public education. This would, at a minimum, include all high schools.

In addition, hospitals should establish ongoing basic introductory (new hire) programs, focused on organ and tissue donation that would be similar to CPR certification and recertification, and might in fact be accommodated within the same new hire program.

Efforts should also be made to ensure that organ and tissue donation be a part of the professional educational curricula at all professional schools related to health. Law schools are included because of the relevance of such issues to courses in elder law, estate planning, and health law”.

In response to this HHS created the “Decision: Donation” curriculum (see above). This curriculum was developed with input from OPOs, UNOS, community education specialist, representation from middle school and president of National Science Teachers Association, and Curriculum developer, National Science Resources Center, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C and driver education consultant. At the time of its launching, this curriculum was sent to each OPO. HRSA had tried to engage the Department of Education at the onset. However, it is not clear whether there was any commitment made by the Department of Education. The use of curriculum was not mandated for use either for schools or OPOs. The isolated examples of this curriculum being used in individual schools has generally been the result of a dedicated local advocate. The international agencies interested in organ donation education in schools have used this curriculum to develop programs in their own countries.

United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS)

UNOS works with Organ procurement organizations (OPO) and Donate Life America

Organ Procurement Organizations (OPO)

Most education about organ donation in the school system is currently being done by OPO at the grass root level. Most OPO personnel go to health and driving classes. They use a variety of tools that include video clips, and classroom teaching kits. They also use students or speakers who have been transplant recipients or donors. The biggest barrier they perceive is the ability to get into the school system.

There are 58 OPO in the US and Puerto Rico. 47 OPOS collaborate with Donate Life America. A similar number of OPO are members of Association of Organ Procurement Organizations. Not every OPO has youth education program and of those that do we do not have data on what resources have been committed to such educational programs, how active they are (in terms of number of schools visited or the frequency of visits to the schools)

List of OPO









District of Columbia





















New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina

North Dakota





Puerto Rico

Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota





Virgin Islands



West Virginia



Donate Life America


Donate Life America is an independent non-profit alliance of national organizations and local coalitions across the Unites States with the sole purpose of educating the public about organ and tissue donation. Donate Life America, formerly the Coalition on Donation, was founded by the transplant community in 1992 to educate the public about organ, eye and tissue donation and avoid duplication of effort.

Donate life America has compiled the following document on their website. This document outlines the different school based State-Approved Organ Donation Instructions

State-Approved Organ Donation Instruction: According to this document, 17 states have some form of state approved organ donation instructions in school system.

Compiled by Miryam Mora-Barajas, Donate Life California
Rev. 4/30/09, modified on 4/6/2011.

State Year Description
IL 1998

Public Act 93-0547, Sec. 27-23.5 (1998)

Each school district that maintains grades 9 and 10 may include in its curriculum and teach to the students of either such grade one unit of instruction on organ/tissue and blood donor and transplantation programs.

WI 1999

Act 124 (1999)

The first state to require discussions about organ donation in driver's education classes. "Kelly's Law," named after 16-year-old Wisconsin organ donor Kelly Nachreiner, requires that all driver's education courses offered in the state provide at least 30 minutes of instruction relating to organ and tissue donation.

Click here to see bill

IA 1999

Iowa Code §321.178 (2005) SSB 3211
(updated in 2005 with new legislation)

Drivers education must include instruction relating to becoming an organ donor under the uniform anatomical gift Act as provided in chapter 142C. Updated in 2005 with new legislation.

Click here to see bill

NM 2000

66-7-506.1 (2000)

Mandated in the Driver's Education Curriculum as part of the DWI Prevention & Education Programs. The Statute is through "Motor Vehicles" as part of their "Safety" Statutes. The law requires public schools, private driver's schools and mail order courses to provide organ donation information. The organ donor registry works with the Traffic Safety Bureau who provides the certification courses for driver's education teachers. There is no state funding for this.

New Mexico Organ Donor Registry provides all driver's education teachers/schools with a 5 minute video to show students, plus brochures. The instructor's manual has information about donation, what it means to register as a donor at the DMV, etc. (it's being updated again this year). Registry staff presents at the driver's education teacher certification and re-certification classes. The Traffic Safety Bureau also has a QA program to make sure the donation information is being provided to students.

Click here to see bill

TX 2001

The bill requires that information relating to anatomical gifts be included in the curriculum of each driver education and driving safety course.

Click here to see bill

OK 2001

SB 1528 (2000)

The legislation requires the state superintendent of public instruction to develop an organ donor education and awareness curriculum for use in elementary and secondary schools.

Click here to see Oklahoma archive and search SB 1528, year 2000 regular session.

MN 2002

Minnesota Session Laws 2002 - Chapter 305 - S.F.No. 3278

The commissioner shall adopt rules requiring instruction relating to organ and tissue donations and the provisions of section 171.07, subdivision 5, for persons enrolled in driver education programs offered at public schools, private schools, and commercial driver training schools. In 2006 Minnesota passed legislation mandating 30 minutes of instruction in driver's education be related to organ and tissue donation.

Click here to see bill

VA 2002

H 686 (2002)

Currently, the Board of Education's standardized program for driver education must include instruction regarding alcohol and drug abuse, aggressive driving, and motorcycle awareness. The Department of Health is added to those entities cooperating in the development of the curriculum.

Virginia Department of Education – Drivers Education Standards of Learning
DE1 – The student will demonstrate an understanding of Virginia traffic laws, licensing procedures and other responsibilities associated with the driving privilege. Key concepts include

  • Licensing requirements and types of licenses;
  • The motor vehicle section of the Code of Virginia;
  • The organ and tissue donation designation process.

Click here to see bill

AR 2003

Acts 2003, No. 546, §1

Driver education courses and high school health classes shall include information or instructional materials regarding organ and tissue donation.

It is also a part of the Standards of Learning for VA.

NC 2004

State Dept of Instruction

Approved 60 min. of organ donation instruction in 9th grade health curriculum; unfunded.

IN 2005

IC 20-30-5-16 Sec. 16(a)

Each school corporation shall include in the school corporation's high school health education curriculum instruction regarding the human organ donor program and blood donor program as adopted by the state board.

Click here to see bill

AL 2006

HJR325 (2006)

“The State Department of Education is strongly urged to include instruction and information regarding organ and tissue donation in any program of driver education and training offered by the public schools of this state.”

Click here to see bill

MN 2006

Minnesota 171.07, Minnesota Statutes 2006

Minnesota passed legislation mandating 30 minutes of instruction in driver's education be related to organ and tissue donation.

Click here to see bill

OH 2006

Ohio ORC Ann. 4508.021 (2006)

The instructor shall organize a classroom presentation and discussion regarding anatomical gifts and anatomical gift procedures. The instructor may arrange for the presentation to be conducted by an employee of the department of health or any other state agency, an employee or volunteer of the Second Chance Trust Fund, an employee or volunteer of any organization involved in the procurement of organ donations, an organ donor, an organ recipient, an employee or volunteer of a tissue or eye bank, or a tissue or corneal transplant recipient, provided that no such person charges a fee to the school for the presentation. However, no such presentation that contains religious content shall be made to students of a driver education course conducted by a school district or educational service center. Students shall be granted the opportunity to ask questions on anatomical gifts and anatomical gift procedures during the presentation and discussion.

Click here to see Ohio’s Revised Code; search 4508.021

WA 2006 WA requires that organ donation education be included in driver’s education curriculum. The legislation was enacted in June 2006. There was not funding provision attached to the bill. Living Legacy Foundation asked for and was awarded the responsibility of providing the curriculum. That was the incentive to create our youth education video and the educators resource guide. Those materials are supplied to the private driving schools that provide education to an estimated 70,000 student a year.
NJ 2008

S755/A2083 (2008) – New Jersey Hero Act

The law incorporates a comprehensive education component at the high school and collegiate levels. Under the NJ Hero Act, New Jersey would be the first state to incorporate mandatory organ donation education into the high school core curriculum. Beginning with the 2009-2010 school year, school districts will be required to implement the component into the Health and Physical Education curriculum. At the collegiate level, institutions of higher education will be required to provide information on New Jersey’s organ donor policies either as part of the curriculum or through student health services. Medical and Nursing school education will also become mandatory.

Finally, the legislation requires that within the next five years every resident 18 years of age or older applying for a driver’s license or state identification card must first answer a few simple, yet potentially life-saving questions, regarding organ donation before a driver’s license or state ID is issued.

Contact: tartesi@sharenj.org


RS 32:4201.1

At least thirty minutes of driver’s education instruction relative to organ and tissue donation, approved by the Department of Public Safety and Corrections or the Department of Education

Also: Permission for organ donation education in Drivers Training classes and also on a limited basis go in to schools (elementary through high school) to present the subject of organ health and donation. Unfunded.

Other non-profit organizations

Gift of Life Donor Program

This is one of the most prominent non-profit organ and tissue donation program serving Eastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey and Delaware. They have promoted organ donation education in schools through several means.

Donors Are Heroes Grant Program

Donors Are Heroes, a Gift of Life volunteer committee, awards grants to teachers and schools for educational initiatives about organ and tissue donation (OTD) projects. They award up to $5,000 per project to 10 Philadelphia high schools. Public, charter, private, or parochial schools are all eligible and encouraged to apply for a grant. During the 2010-2011 school year, more than $35,000 was distributed to local schools.

High schools across the Philadelphia region have undertaken innovative and creative projects to promote organ donation. Often, Health teachers spearhead the initiative with an OTD project, however, Gift of Life encourages teachers from other disciplines to become involved as well. In the past, Health, Art, and Science teachers have worked together to successfully create projects ranging from poster displays to video presentations.

"Spirit for Life" Student Summits

Spirit for Life" Student Summits offer high school teachers and students a unique and exciting day of workshops designed to train students as ambassadors for organ and tissue donation. These Summits are open to all area high schools (public, charter, parochial, or private) and not limited to Philadelphia County. During the Summit students have the opportunity to listen to personal stories of donor families and transplant recipients, watch educational presentations, and participate in organ donation-themed activities.

College Outreach

Gift of Life also works with area colleges to educate students about organ and tissue donation. Any college class, organization, or club can contact them, to offer an educational presentation or host a speaker at one of their events. They encourage students to hold a Donor Registration Drive on campus with tabling events where students can register onsite to become organ and tissue donors, adopt organ donation as a special cause for their organization. participate in Donate Life Month in April, start a Gift of Life Club.

Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness (OTDA)

The mission of the Organ Tissue Donation Awareness Project (OTDA) is to implement organ/tissue donation and transplantation education in Pennsylvania's secondary schools. To this end, OTDA now provides a step-by-step toolkit and guide for secondary education teachers to implement in various classes across the curriculum. The toolkit includes PowerPoint presentations, video downloads, photographs, and access to a listserv. The OTDA Education Project gives teachers concrete tools to provide students with in-depth knowledge and skills needed to understand the donation process.

Legacy Donor Foundation

Founded in 1999, the Legacy Donor Foundation is based in Louisiana. The Foundation and the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency (LOPA) are collaborating to form the Donate Life Louisiana Campaign which strives to bring a cohesive face to organ donation awareness in Louisiana.

The legacy donor foundation holds annual Youth Education on Organ and Tissue Donation throughout the state. Students and teachers from area high schools participate in these free, half-day programs to learn about organ, eye and tissue donation.

Doctors, educators and speakers who have personal experience with donation or transplantation introduce participants to the subject of organ, eye and tissue donation. The Youth Education on Organ and Tissue Donation prepare teens to make informed decisions, while understanding that whatever decision they make, they need to include their family in the process.

Students for Organ Donation

It is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting organ donation awareness and registration. Active in the United States and Canada and run entirely by students, the organization actively recruits college and high school students to establish chapters at their own schools. The organization was founded in 2003 by Richard Ludlow and John Ludlow while they were undergraduates at Yale University and UC San Diego, respectively.

The James Redford Institute for Transplant Awareness (JRI)

JRI was a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public about the need for organ and tissue donation. However, they continue to collaborate with American Society of Transplantation to host the program: Share the beat.

AnimAction is a program aimed at middle-school students. In a two-day workshop, professional animators from AnimAction in Los Angeles go into schools by invitation to teach students how to create animated commercials or Public service announcements (PSAs). The theme for this intense seminar was saving lives through organ donation. www.jrifilms.org/animated_psa.html

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