In recent years, New York was criticized for having a low organ donation rate compared to other states. This month, the process became easier, and those who wish to donate their organs can do so online.
Currently, more than 2.7 million New Yorkers are registered as organ donors, but that number represents only 18 percent of the possible donors in the state. The national average is 42 percent. Clearly we need to make improvements. It is said that one organ donor can save up to eight lives and improve the lives of up to 50 people by donating tissues. It may be one of the most important decisions you make.
In April, New York launched a web site that accepts electronic signatures at www.dmv.ny.gov. This is meaningful progress, and I hope it bolsters organ donation statistics in our state.
Some people may not be aware that on the back every New York State license is the option to sign and be considered an organ donor at the time of death. All you have to do is sign; however, this is only one part of ensuring your organs are donated. By enrolling online, those who attend your death can check this database and know your wishes. Also, if something happens to your physical driver's license, your wishes still will be honored. It is also important to talk to your family members and your doctor so they can ensure that your organs are used.
Under state law, the New York State Organ and Tissue Donor Registry, or Donate Life Registry, can only be accessed to determine an individual's donation status after death and only by a federally approved organ procurement organization or licensed eye and tissue bank. Enrolling to be an organ donor will not affect one's medical care and/or funeral arrangements, and there is no cost to the donor's family. Anyone over age 18 can sign up to be a potential organ donor, regardless of their medical history.
During the online sign-up process, prospective donors will be required to provide basic information found on their license or non-driver ID including date of birth, zip code, and last four digits of the Social Security number. Organs for life-saving transplants include heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, pancreas, and small intestine. Examples of tissues that could save or enhance someone's life include eyes and corneas, heart valves, bones, and skin grafts.
Those who register through the website do not need to print, sign and mail their registration application to the New York State Department of Health, which maintains the Donate Life Registry. Customers still can sign up by mail or at any DMV office. And while most donors enroll through the DMV when they get or renew their driver licenses or non-driver ID cards, potential donors can sign up anytime.
Here are some important facts about organ donation, according to the Donate for Life website:
- Most major religions publicly endorse organ donation as the highest gesture of humanitarianism, including Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam and most branches of Judaism. If you are unsure or uncomfortable with your faith's position on donation, talk to a member of your clergy.
- There are very few medical conditions that would automatically disqualify you from donating any organs and tissues so don't disqualify yourself. It may turn out that while certain organs are not suitable for transplant, other organs and tissues are fine.
- Family members are never held responsible for any costs related to donation.
- Although it is important to join a donor registry and indicate that you are an organ donor on your driver's license, it is equally important to speak with your family, friends, and doctors about your decision so that they are aware of your wishes.
- Your medical history is more important than your age. Organs have been transplanted from donors in their 70s and 80s and even 92-year-olds have donated their livers in the United States.
- Although you must be 18 years of age to sign up on the New York State Donate Life Registry, parents or guardians can authorize this decision for their children who would like to register.
- The organ transplant waiting list is blind to wealth and celebrity status. People receive organs based on the severity of the illness, time spent on the waiting list, and blood type.
- Donating an organ will in no way delay funeral arrangements or change any funeral plans.
- Open casket viewing is possible after any type of donation.
- It is possible to donate to someone who is not a relative and even to someone from another racial or ethnic group. However, transplant success rates do increase when organs are matched between members of the same ethnic background. A lack of organ donation among ethnic populations can lead to longer wait times for individuals within that ethnic group.
If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (315) 598-5185. You also may find me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.