SACRAMENTO — About 4.5 million California drivers are being given a simple appeal: Give and let live.
The soft-sell approach is for a delicate topic--donating body parts for science.
The state Department of Motor Vehicles has recently begun sending out pink donor cards to millions of Californians who applied for drivers' licenses.
If drivers sign the cards and place them on the backs of their licenses, critically needed parts of their bodies may be donated in the event of death if family members agree.
"Of course it is a delicate subject," said DMV spokesman Bill Gengler. "People don't want to think about it."
But, he added, the cards encourage potential donations from those who might otherwise not have thought about the shortage of available transplant organs.
"This isn't for people who don't want to donate; this is just to give people who do the opportunity," he said.
The DMV has been making donor cards available for drivers since 1976.
Enclosed with licenses and donor cards being mailed to drivers is a flyer produced by the Golden State Regional Organ Procurement Agency.
The agency also is sponsoring a series of posters at DMV offices and billboards bearing the slogan: "Give Someone a Second Chance."
Organ-donor specialist Bob Taylor said half of all bereaved families say yes when asked about donating the tissues of a dead family member.
"A donor's family can get a tremendous boost from knowing there is some positive thread in an otherwise hopeless situation," said Taylor, who is director of the Lions Eye and Tissue Bank at the University of California Medical Center in Sacramento.
"They have the satisfaction of knowing their relative's tissues can benefit from 30 to 100 other people."
Eye, bone, cartilage, membrane and skin tissues all have special properties making them useful for certain medical procedures.
In one case, Taylor recalled, rib and chest cartilage from just one donor helped to restore the hearing in 88 patients. The cartilage used was about the size of the head of a nail.
"I'm very supportive of the donor cards," Taylor said.