State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer (D-Mamaroneck) today hailed a series of new laws designed to increase the number of organ and tissue transplants available for desperately ill New Yorkers. The newly-signed laws make it easier for people to give the gift of life, eliminating legal red tape and offering tax breaks to living donors to offset expenses.
"The Organ and Tissue Donor Registry will now change from listing individuals who have indicated an intent to donate to those who have provided consent," Senator Oppenheimer said. "When this law goes into effect, hospitals and organ procurement organizations will no longer need to get consent from next of kin. This simple change represents real hope for the thousands of New Yorkers waiting- and hoping- to receive an organ transplant."
Senator Oppenheimer noted that while the number of organ donors has remained static, the need for such lifesaving measures has risen dramatically. Over 500 New Yorkers die each year due to the shortage of donated organs. "With more than 8,000 New Yorkers waiting for the phone to ring with news of an available kidney, liver or lung, there’s no time to lose in educating the public about organ donation," Senator Oppenheimer said.
Several of the laws promote public awareness of the issue. One establishes an educational outreach program within the state Department of Health; another gives the Registry a catchy new name, the "Donate Life" Registry; while a third requires drivers license application or renewal forms to include a box for a voluntary one dollar donation to the "Life Pass It On" fund.
"There is a urgent need for all New Yorkers to learn about organ and tissue donation," the Westchester lawmaker added. "We know that donated organs are matched by such factors as blood and tissue typing, which can vary by race. So patients are more likely to find matches among donors of their same race or ethnicity."
State lawmakers also enacted a tax break of up to $10,000 for living organ donors to help offset the costs of travel and lost wages. A living donor is an individual who donates an organ or a portion of an organ (such as a kidney or part of a liver) to another person, most often a family member. Many donated organs, however, are provided by deceased donors.
Senator Oppenheimer concluded: "Enrolling in the Registry is not a simple decision, but it’s the best way to ensure that your wish to be a donor will be honored upon your death. I encourage all adults to learn more about the ultimate act of compassion by visiting www.health.state.ny.us. or www.organdonor.gov. Then help us get the word out by telling family and friends."