New York’s Organ Donation Rate Still Low

By Assemblyman Will Barclay
The Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network recently launched an ad campaign called Pass Life On.

There are a series of videos which talk about the importance of organ donation titled “The Greatest Person Never Known” which feature a grateful organ recipient.

The ad campaign is designed to help improve the state’s organ donation registration rates, which continue to be much lower than other states.

A recent study completed by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield estimates that just 22 percent of New Yorkers are registered as organ donors, compared to 48 percent nationally.

In fact, we rank 49th in the country but we have the third highest need.

Many people are under the assumption that if they sign the back of their driver’s license, then they are a registered organ donor.

Signing the back of your license is a good first step, as this indicates your personal wishes, but in order to be listed as an organ donor in the state registry, residents must fill out either an online form through the Department of Motor Vehicles or print and mail a form to the Department of Health.

Being registered allows health care officials to better assist those who are on the waiting list for an organ.

Candidates for organ donation are, unfortunately, most often on life support or brain dead and doctors have concluded death is imminent before the patient is considered for organ donation.

It is at this time the family is consulted.  Being registered can help the families during a critical time so the family does not have to make that choice when they are in a state of shock.

Organ donation advocate centers report that if left to the families, as much as 40% of family members elect not to have their loved ones’ organs donated when asked.

However, if a counselor from the hospital informs the family that their loved one, who is either pronounced dead or facing death and is on life support, is a registered organ donor, organs are more likely to be donated.

There are four federally designated procurement centers in the state.

For our area, the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network works with area hospitals to match donors with those who are awaiting an organ.

By far, the greatest need is kidneys.

Livers, pancreas and hearts are also in great need.

In 2013, there were 1,176 organs transplanted.

More than 10,000 New Yorkers are on waiting lists and nationally, there are more than 120,000 waiting for an organ of some kind.

One person who donates organs such as a heart, lung, liver, kidney, pancreas and intestines can save up to eight lives, while a tissue donor (corneas, bone, skin, heart valves, tendons, veins, etc.) can improve several more lives by restoring eyesight, helping fight infections in burn patients and preventing the loss of mobility and disability.

In 2013, the state enacted legislation to require new driver applicants to answer the question if they wanted to be an organ donor.

New Yorkers are prompted to select “Yes” or “Not at this Time” on the application form.

This became known as Lauren’s Law, named after Lauren Shields—a 12-year-old girl who received a heart transplant.

I was happy to support this legislation in the Assembly.

Obviously, with our low registration rates, we still need to improve.

Part of it is raising awareness.  Another part is improving our laws and policies to make it easier for people to register.

I support legislation that would allow anyone filling out a driver’s license application to express their intent to be an organ donor with a parent’s permission.

Upon the applicant turning 18, they would be enrolled in the organ donation registry.  This would help save lives.

You can check your license to see if you are already an organ donor.

If so, it is indicated in the upper right hand side with a heart and above it, the words “organ donor.”

To sign up to be an organ donor, visit

To learn more about the process, visit and watch a short video on how organs are donated.

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 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.