New Laws Created To Improve Breast Cancer Screenings, DNA Databank, Organ Donation

August 13, 2012

I wanted to take some time this week to update you on a few new health-related laws that passed during session and were recently signed into law by the Governor. I was pleased to support all this legislation that will work toward better breast cancer detection, fighting crime, and improving New York's organ donation rates during session.

In late July, the Governor signed legislation to help improve breast cancer detection and prevention. The new law requires those providing mammograms to inform patients if they have dense breast tissue, to explain what this means to patients, and to check with their doctor for possible additional screenings. Some studies show that cancer is more likely in women who have dense breast tissue and the mammogram of a woman with dense breast tissue is often harder to interpret. According to one study, 71% of all breast cancers occur in women with dense breast tissue.

A similar law passed in Connecticut in 2009 and reports there indicate that, with a follow-up ultrasound, nearly double the amount of cancers were found after further screening. While many health practitioners have begun to provide additional screenings for women with dense breast tissue, this law will ensure that this type of follow-up will continue to detect tumors, hopefully in their early, more treatable forms. Many cancerous tumors were going undiagnosed in cases where women had a mammogram but also had dense breast tissue. Technology and research has advanced to develop better tools to detect cancer so our laws should follow suit. I was happy to support this in the Assembly.

Landmark DNA database expansion officially became law earlier this month. This law requires DNA samples to be collected from anyone convicted of any felony or Penal Law misdemeanor. It is the first of its type in the nation. This will greatly assist law enforcement. Violent criminals do not specialize in one kind of crime and are often convicted of lesser crimes before committing other, more serious, offenses. By collecting DNA samples from anyone convicted of a felony or penal misdemeanor, we can protect our families and communities.

I look forward to this valuable tool being used by law enforcement to apprehend felons, as well as to exonerate those who are wrongfully convicted. I have advocated for this bill for some time and did not understand the opposition to it in the past. It will help law enforcement at the scene of a crime and prove that others are innocent. I applaud Governor Cuomo for signing this important bill into law and am very pleased to have played a role in its creation.

Lauren's Law also has been signed by the Governor. I was pleased to support this in the Assembly as well. This requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to provide a section of the New York State Driver License application for organ donation. New York currently has one of the worst organ donation rates, in part because of a difficult application process.

Previously, those wishing to be a part of the New York State Organ and Tissue registry had to fill out a lengthy application and mail it back to the state. This bill would require individuals who apply for a driver license to complete the organ donor registry section of the application by selecting either “yes” or “skip this question.” Currently, filling out the section is optional. The bill is named after 12-year-old Lauren Shields of Stony Point, Rockland County, who received a heart transplant in 2009.

People also may sign the back of their license to indicate their wishes to authorities and loved ones; however, this does not enroll residents in the registry so their wishes may not always be honored. There is also an online application now that enables anyone to sign up. That site can be accessed at

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 or by calling (315) 598-5185. You also may find me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.