While over 27,000 organ transplants were performed in 2005, according to the Center for Donation and Transplant in Albany, some 17 people still die every day due to the shortage of organs for transplant. According to the New York State Department of Health, more than 90,000 people nationwide are on organ transplant waiting lists, including nearly 9,000 New Yorkers. These numbers do not include those individuals who are in desperate need of tissue transplants.
April has been designated as Donate Life Month to raise public awareness of the need for organ, tissue, marrow and blood donations, which can save the lives of many people, and improve the quality of life for many others.
Donations include heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas, intestine, skin, corneas, bone, veins, cartilage, heart valves and tendons. Health officials say that a single donor can help as many as 50 people.
In 1999, the New York State Task Force to Increase Organ and Tissue Donation
was created to explore and research the issues of organ and tissue donations. It was discovered that when an individual dies, many times the family doesn't know of his or her wishes and, therefore, doesn't consent to donation. As a result, the New York State Organ and Tissue Donor Registry was created in June 2000 with the purpose of recording an individual's wishes to donate organs and tissues. When the death occurs, the local organ procurement organization or tissue bank informs the family of the individual's decision. The family must still give consent to the donation, but at least now they know of the person's desire to be a donor. Over a million New Yorkers have recorded their wishes since the Registry's inception.
In 2002, New York State also updated the official health care proxy form to make donation instructions clearer and more specific for families.
Maintained by the Health Department, people can sign up via the Internet for the registry at the website www.health.state.ny.us/nysdoh/donor/form.htm. People can also mark "Organ Donor" on their driver licenses or non-driver photo identification card renewal applications. The State Department of Motor Vehicles then forwards the information on to the State Department of Health.
For more information, call the State Organ and Tissue Donor Registry at 866-NYDONOR (693-6667).