MSU Researcher Finds Organ Donors' Silver Lining in Motorcycle Crashes

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Until 2012, motorcycle helmets were mandatory for all riders in Michigan. The year the law changed motorcycle deaths jumped by 18%. Now one researcher is looking for a silver lining to the storm of fatal motorcycle crashes – an increase in available donor organs.

When Governor Snyder and the Michigan Legislature went against common sense and medical consensus in 2012 by making motorcycle helmets optional for some riders, saving lives through organ donation was probably not what they had in mind. But research by Stacy Dickert-Conlin, an economics professor at Michigan State University, suggests that’s one unintended result.

Dickert-Conlin studies unintended consequences of political changes. According to her study, states, where helmet laws have been repealed, receive a 10% boost in available donor organs. Still, that is only 1 life saved for every 3 bikers lost.

Meanwhile, the black clouds surrounding Michigan’s decision to repeal its mandatory helmet law continue to grow. The number of riders wearing helmets has dropped from 99% in 2006 to 73 percent in 2013. In other states with similar repeals that number drops to just over half .

A year after the law changed, the insurance industry reported a 34% increase in the cost of motorcycle crash claims. That means the average biking accident cost almost $2,000 more when riders could choose to leave the helmet at home. In 2012 alone, the law could be traced to 26 Michigan motorcyclists’ deaths.

What makes this dark cloud’s lining shine so brightly? First, according to Dickert-Conlin, motorcyclists are statistically more likely to be organ donors than the general public. Secondly and more significantly, brain death is much more likely to occur in a motorcycle crash than a car crash. When not protected by a helmet, motorcyclists “can be killed in low-speed, relatively minor collisions which cause brain death but leave the rest of the body in pristine condition.”

Motorcyclists who choose to leave their helmet at home may be safe from Michigan’s traffic laws, but they are putting their lives at risk. Everyone from insurance companies to economists have recognized their increased risk of fatal accidents. But if there is any good to be taken from such tragic events, at least some ailing patients will receive replacement organs sooner and live a little longer thanks to the careless riders.

The team at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan are experts in motorcycle accidents. David Christensen and his associates have been aggressively representing riders for decades. If you or a loved one has been in a bike crash, contact the lawyers today for a free consultation.