Palmesano, County Clerks Rally to Encourage Organ Donation

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C-Corning) hosted a press conference today along with local county clerks to commemorate the end of Donate Life Month and to encourage more New Yorkers to register as organ donors. Palmesano pointed to the following sobering statistics and why the issue of organ donation is so important in New York:

  • There are 103,000 people nationally on the organ donation waitlist;
  • Nearly 8,000 of those are New Yorkers;
  • 1,100 of those New Yorkers have been waiting for more than five years;
  • New York is ranked 50th out 52 states and territories in terms of enrollment in the country;
  • New York has a donor enrollment rate of 47%, while the national rate is 64%;
  • New York has the 3rd highest need for organ donors but has the 3rd worst enrollment rate;
  • Unfortunately, nearly 400 New Yorkers died in 2023 while waiting for a life-saving organ transplant; and
  • Most importantly, one person who donates at the time of their death can save up to eight lives and impact the lives of 75 others through eye and tissue donation.

“New York’s organ donor enrollment statistics are sobering and unacceptable. We can, and we must do better,” said Palmesano.

The issue of organ donation is a very personal issue to Palmesano and continues to be an important priority for him. His sister Teresa was a juvenile diabetic, which compromised her health over her lifetime. She was a two-time kidney transplant recipient, first in 2000 from the kindness of a stranger and again in 2006, when Palmesano donated a kidney to his sister.

“I would like to thank NYS Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Commissioner Mark J. F. Schroeder and everyone at the NYS DMV, as well as all the county clerks and county DMV employees across the state for your continued hard work and dedication to helping increase organ donation rates across the state. Your commitment to helping save lives, not only during Donate Life Month but throughout the year, does not go unnoticed. Thank you so very much,” said Palmesano.

“This issue is very personal to me. Although my sister Teresa passed away at the age of 50 in 2013, I still tell people Teresa was lucky. She received two transplants; most people might not even get one. I have seen firsthand how organ donation can impact the quality of life for a family. However, I did not realize how bad the numbers were in New York until I stepped onto the Assembly floor in 2011. We have made good progress over the years, but we still have a long way to go. Yes, we celebrate Donate Life Month every April, but we must continue our efforts of public education, awareness, advocacy and expanded access year-round to help save lives. New Yorkers are kind and generous people. The more we make them aware and expand access to the Donate Life Program and ask them that important question, ‘Do you want to register to be an organ donor,’ the more New Yorkers will say ‘yes’ and help save lives,” added Palmesano.

DMV Commissioner and Chair of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee Mark J. F. Schroeder said, “Raising awareness about organ donation and joining the organ donor registry has been a commitment and a top priority for me in my time at DMV. More than 80 percent of the people who enroll in the registry do so through a DMV-related transaction. I applaud Assemblymember Palmesano’s efforts and those of his colleagues in the Legislature, as well as our county clerk partners, for helping continue to get out the message that one simple choice could be the reason one other person simply gets to live.”

Steuben County Clerk Judy Hunter said, “Organ Donation is needed 365 days a year. In Steuben County, we strive to bring awareness to this important issue and encourage all who enter our doors to consider organ donation. One simple and thoughtful action is the critically vital step needed to save another person’s life.”

Chemung County Clerk Linda Forrest said, “Chemung County was again pleased to participate in spreading the word about the importance of organ donation. This year, staff worked hard to inform the public by taking a group photo, decorating the office, selling candy and collecting pop bottles for this important cause. We know how important and vital organ donation is in saving so many lives. I am proud to be here today to continue to help raise awareness of the importance of organ donation. I am very proud of our community and thankful to the people who participated in our fundraising and those who have signed up to be an organ donor.”

Yates County Clerk Molly Linehan said, “While April has been designated as National Donate Life Month, education about the importance of and vital need for organ, eye and tissue donation needs to continue year-round. Through these types of donations, children and adults are given a chance to live full and active lives.”

Schuyler County Clerk Theresa Philbin said, "Although we bring a spotlight to the Donate Life movement in April, it is important to remember it all year. New York state ranks 50th out of 52 national registries. It would be wonderful to bring that number up! It is important to let your family know you wish to be an organ donor. Once you are 18 years of age you can have the heart icon on your driver's license that indicates you are a willing donor.”

Seneca County Clerk Christina Lotz said, “At the Seneca County DMV we have a saying that is simple and easy to remember, “One last good deed – let your body help those in need.”

“If you have already registered to be an organ donor, thank you. If you have not, I ask you to please talk to your family about it and please consider becoming an organ donor today. I do understand this can be a very difficult topic to think and talk about, especially as you are considering one’s own death. I do understand that, but I ask you to think for just one minute, what if it was your mom or dad, brother or sister, husband or wife or God forbid your son or daughter and they were in need of a life-saving organ transplant and you just heard those sobering statistics. Might that make you think just a little bit differently about the issue and possibly encourage you to register to be an organ donor today? As I said before, we can, and we must do better. Working together, I am confident we will do just that, and we will save lives,” concluded Palmesano.

If you would like to register to be an organ donor, please visit your local DMV office or simply register online at