Tonawanda News

October 11, 2012

Organ donors sought in N.Y.

The Tonawanda News

— Citing what state officials say is one of the lowest organ donor rates in the nation, Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently signed a bill to boost the number of New Yorkers who register for organ donation.

Called “Lauren’s Law” after a 12-year-old girl who received a heart transplant in 2009, the legislation aims to add more encouraging language to state applications through the Department of Motor Vehicles, intended to increase the registration of organ and tissue donors.

DMV applications for driver licenses and non-driver identification cards will now say: “You must fill out the following section: Would you like to be added to the Donate Life Registry? Check box for ‘yes’ or ‘skip this question.’”

The state currently ranks third-to-last in the number of registered donors, with the second-longest organ transplant waiting list for some 9,700 people awaiting transplants. That’s out of approximately 113,000 awaiting a transplant nationwide, according to state data.

About 18 percent of adults in New York state are registered organ donors, meaning they have consented in advance to allow doctors to harvest and re-use their organs immediately upon their death. The national average is much higher, at 43 percent.

Previously, applicants were not required to answer the question when applying for a license.

“With thousands of New Yorkers on the waiting list for organ and tissue donations, New York state must work harder to enroll our residents in this important life-saving program,” Cuomo said in a statement accompanying the signing last week. “By adding this new language to DMV application forms, it is our hope that many more New Yorkers sign up to be on the list of those willing to donate an organ or tissue.”

An average of 18 people die every day in the United States from causes that could have been treated with a donated organ, state data suggests.

Ted Lawson, executive director of Save Lives Now New York, the state’s leading non-governmental advocacy group on the matter, said the legislation is a positive stepp for the state.

“This is a great first step in changing New York state organ donation policy so that more organs will be made available for life-saving transplants. The officers of Save Lives Now New York ... look forward to working with Gov. Cuomo and the New York state legislature in the future on developing additional policy changes in New York that will shift New York State’s present status as third-to-last place in organ donor registrations, and second-longest organ transplant waiting list, to being a leader in both of these areas. Hopefully, the passage of Lauren’s Law will be a significant first step in that direction.”

The new law takes effect in one year.