New York falls behind in organ donors

By Sadef Ali Kully

Live On New York sponsored its first organ enrollment day Tuesday, following the July passage of a bill in the state legislature to institute an annual organ enrollment day.

New York falls to the bottom of the list in organ donations per capita across the country. The goal of the organ enrollment day for Live On New York, the second-largest of the nation’s 58 nonprofit, federally designated organ procurement organizations, is to register as many organ donors as possible.

“We are not focusing on the numbers for donor registration,” said Dr. Amy Friedman, spokeswoman for Live On New York, who was signing up people at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center. “We think it’s the mechanics of the system and the lack of awareness.”

Jamaica Hospital Medical Center partnered up with Live On New York for the event. Live On New York is responsible for the recovery of organs, eyes and tissues for transplantation, as well as public and professional education efforts in the greater New York metropolitan area.

Live On New York helped push the legislation for organ enrollment day, which was co-sponsored by state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), who is now pushing legislation to help undocumented New Yorkers who undergo two years of emergency dialysis treatment in New York qualify for kidney transplants.

According to Peralta, undocumented New Yorkers with end-stage renal disease are not eligible for public coverage for kidney transplants, “It is time for New York State to become a national leader on this issue,” he said.

Dr. Friedman said many have the impression that a donor does not get the same medical help as a non-donor and some believe organs go only to the rich or celebrities.

At Jamaica Hospital, the palliative-care medical team, which provides specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses, has taken measures to make the organ donation process as seamless as possible for loved ones facing inevitable loss.

“The method we are developing can become the national standard and we could save hundreds and hundreds of lives,” said Dr. Alan Roth, director of Palliative Care and chair of Family Medical Care at Jamaica Hospital.

Across the state, there are 10,199 people on the waiting list for organs while only 25 percent of New York residents are registered.

At Jamaica Hospital, organ donation hits home.

After undergoing a few heart bypasses, Dr. Anthony DiMaria’s heart was getting weaker. He closed his Howard Beach practice to focus on his health. But after received a heart transplant in 2007, he was able to go back to work. “This is my second life,” he said.

Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skully@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4546.