The Role DMV Partners Play in Organ and Tissue Donation

Published September 14, 2023 in Blog

Sanela Hall, office manager for the South Kingshighway Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in St. Louis, MO, is both a myth buster and an advocate. As a manager for the DMV, her job includes asking those registering for a driver’s license if they would like to be organ and tissue donors, and she acknowledges getting some pushback. Partially because of fictionalized portrayals of organ and tissue donation found in Hollywood movies, Hall often hears resistance to becoming a donor that is not based on fact.

While she is required by law to ask whether drivers want to become organ and tissue donors, Hall goes above and beyond to advocate for the organ donation mission. She has one reason in particular for doing so: her dear friend and colleague Larry, who passed away during the Covid-19 pandemic, was a heart transplant recipient. His new heart allowed him to stay alive when other options had been exhausted, and neither of them ever forgot that gift.

“He was living the good life and helping register people,” Hall said. Larry would visit families at the hospital after they had lost a loved one and share his story about how an organ donor saved his life.

“It was so touching that he got a second chance at life,” said Hall. “It’s the greatest gift you can give somebody.”


Celebrating a job well done

Every September, National DMV Appreciation Month recognizes DMV and Driver License Partners (DLPs) as crucial allies in saving and healing lives through organ and tissue donation. Over 90 percent of donors register at their local DMV. This puts into perspective the critical work of DMV employees like Hall and her colleagues, who drive life forward through organ and tissue donation.

Inspired by their friend Larry, Hall and her team take the time to engage with DMV patrons who show hesitation about registering to be an organ and tissue donor. The most common objections, says Hall, are the fear that doctors won’t do what they can to save someone, and the belief that organ donation is against their religion. In fact, neither are true.

When a patient arrives at the hospital, the number one priority is to save his or her life. Doctors and other medical personnel have both a moral and legal obligation to give their patients the best care possible. Organ and tissue donation is not considered until every effort to save the patient’s life has been exhausted. Even then, just two percent of people who die will pass away in a manner that allows for donation to be a possibility.

In terms of religion, nearly all religious groups support organ and tissue donation and transplantation as long as it does not impede the life or hasten the death of the donor. Donate Life America includes a series of statements made by different faith denominations addressing organ, eye, and tissue donation and transplantation.

Hall and her team provide brochures with this information to those that have concerns. But they have found that the most successful method of convincing would-be donors is to pull out their own driver’s licenses, which indicate their status as organ and tissue donors. “We always try, regardless of how many people we have waiting in the line, to change somebody's mind,” she said.

While Hall appreciates the recognition of National DMV Appreciation Month, the real reward for her is changing the story for patients waiting for a transplant. “So people can live with hope that they’re going to be saved,” she said.


During the month of September, take a moment to reach out to your local DMV to thank them! And while you’re at it, register to become an organ and tissue donor there or sign up for the donor registry, and increase the chance that patients waiting will get the transplants they need to survive. In addition to registering at the DMV, you can also register as an organ donor online any time.