It wasn't too long ago that New York was ranked close to the bottom in terms of organ harvesting and donation rates. In 2010, a little over 2.7 million New Yorkers were registered organ donors. While that may sound like a high number, it was only about 18 percent of potential donors and is dramatically lower than the national average. In fact, a recent study ranked New York at 48th in the nation in terms of its registered organ donors. With the internet and better outreach, the state is trying to turn these statistics around.
In 2012, the State Legislature passed a bill to allow the State Department of Motor Vehicles to serve as a place where people would be encouraged to sign up to donate their organs. The legislation changed driver license forms. Forms to renew and apply for a new license now include a section that applicants “must fill out” by either joining the organ donor registry or choosing to skip the question. Previously, filling out that section on the license application was optional. New license and non-driver ID cards are then marked with a heart, to signify the person is an organ donor. I was pleased to support this in the Assembly.
Prior to 2012, residents had to request and mail in an organ donation form to the Department of Health or register in person at the DMV or the Board of Elections. These are still options but signing up has been made easier through a new service called MyDMV. Anyone with internet access and a license or non-driver ID card can register as an organ donor online. By visiting https://my.dmv.ny.gov, residents are prompted to enter information from the ID cards and to create a username and password. From there, you can select the option to register as an organ donor.
According to the DMV website and the Donate for Life website, more than 10,000 New Yorkers are on waiting lists as the need for organ donations far exceeds the supply. One person who donates organs (hearts, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas and intestines) can save up to eight lives, while a tissue donor (corneas, bone, skin, heart valves, tendons, veins, etc.) can improve 12 or more lives by restoring eyesight, helping fight infections in burn patients and preventing the loss of mobility and disability.
Here are some statistics to consider:
- More than 8,000 await kidney transplants.
- About 1,400 need livers.
- More than 300 need hearts.
- In 2012, a total of 514 people died in New York State while waiting for organ transplants. This means someone died every 15 hours in the state because of the organ donor shortage.
- Every 2½ hours, a person's name is added to the New York State organ transplant waiting list.
Enrolling online, however, will NOT result in a new driver license or non-driver identification card with a red heart symbol and the words ORGAN DONOR. This must be changed with a fee. Despite this, residents still can be listed as an organ donor on the registry and residents can still sign the back of the ID to indicate the wish to make an "anatomical gift."
Expressing these wishes could literally save someone's life. For more information, call the New York State Organ and Tissue Donor Registry at 1-866-NYDONOR (1-866-693-6667). 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 email@example.com or by calling (315) 598-5185. You also can find me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.