By Bill Parry
New Yorkers have a bad track record when it comes to registering to donate their organs.
City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) did something about it last Saturday, announcing the introduction of two bills to encourage organ donation. INT. 796 amends the agency-based voter registration program that was enacted last year to highlight the fact that people can use voter registration forms to become organ donors and INT. 797 provides job protection for people who choose to be living donors and donate an organ to someone in need.
“We are in a public health crisis in terms of organ donation,” Constantinides said. “It is evident that more needs to be done to encourage people to donate and remove any barriers that might be in place that prevent people from becoming live organ donors. These bills will help encourage donation and increase the number of potential donors in our city. They will make it easier for people to register as an organ donor, and ensure that anyone willing to give life by donating an organ can do so without the possibility of losing pay.”
New York state ranks 50th in percentage of residents who are registered organ donors. Only 24 percent are registered, compared to a national average of 50 percent, while 123,000 people nationwide and 10,000 people statewide are awaiting organ transplants.
Every 18 hours, someone in New York state dies waiting for an organ and transplant recipients can wait years for an organ. For instance, the average wait time across the nation for a kidney is three years. A single organ donor can save up to eight lives and save or heal more than 100 lives through tissue donation.
Constantinides was joined in support at his City Hall announcement with LiveOnNY (formerly the New York Donor Network), the Transplant Recipient International Organization and the National Kidney Foundation.
“This is common sense legislation to address the organ shortage in New York and to eliminate barriers to living donation,” National Kidney Foundation Executive Director Kevin Longino said. “New Yorkers are generous people, and if provided an opportunity, many would register as organ donors when signing up to vote.”
The legislation is co-sponsored by several other Council members, including I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans).
“New York’s lack of participation in organ donation is troubling with over 10,000 individuals awaiting transplants statewide,” Miller said. “Any assistance that may be provided to facilitate donations within the five boroughs will be crucial to saving lives and this particularly applies to communities of color.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr