DOH & DMV Commissioners: Number of Donors in New York State Organ and Tissue Donor Registry Has Nearly Tripled in Last Eight Months

State Registry Now Totals More Than 100,000 Potential Donors

Albany, NY, June 25, 2001 – New York State Health Commissioner Antonia. C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H. was joined today by Commissioner Raymond P. Martinez of the State Department of Motor Vehicles at a press conference to announce that New Yorkers are responding in record numbers to help those in need of organ and tissue transplants. As of June 1, the number of State residents who had enrolled in New York's Organ and Tissue Donor Registry swelled to 103,674.

"The response from New Yorkers enrolling in this life–saving donor registry is tremendous. As we all know, New York is a compassionate State and the residents who live here are the best in the nation when it comes to helping their fellow New Yorkers," Governor George Pataki said. "I want to thank the more than 100,000 individuals who have indicated their intent to donate organs and tissues and I want to encourage all New Yorkers to look into organ and tissue donations because you could be saving the life of a family member, loved one or a neighbor."

"As people are becoming increasingly aware of the critical situation facing many who require a transplant, more and more are stepping up and giving what I call the 'ultimate gift of life,'" Dr. Novello said. "I applaud Governor Pataki for creating this live–saving registry and Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Martinez for the work his agency is doing signing up potential donors. In a sense, the donor's legacy lives on as they leave an indelible imprint on the lives of those they've committed to help."

Nationwide, more than 75,000 people are on organ transplant waiting lists in this country, including nearly 7,600 New Yorkers. Many more, estimated in the tens of thousands, are in need of tissue transplants.

Dr. Novello said that thanks in large part to the generosity of thousands of organ donors, 21,693 organ transplants were performed in the U.S. in 1999. Despite these developments, however, the number of patients who have died while on waiting lists has tripled during the past decade.

"The Registry has been in effect for about a year and has already proven the many benefits that can result when two state agencies work cooperatively for the welfare of those individuals in need of transplants," Commissioner Martinez said. "We are gratified at DMV that the vast majority of the names for the donor list come from a checkoff box that motorists have been using when renewing or applying for driver licenses and non–driver identification cards. The names are then submitted electronically to the Department of Health."

Under Governor Pataki's leadership, New York has taken several steps to reverse the trend. The Governor declared April 15–22 as Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week in New York State and both English and Spanish language versions of the online Registry enrollment form are now available.

In June 2000, Governor Pataki created the Organ and Tissue Donor Registry so that individuals could inform loved ones of their wishes to donate and to help those wishes become a reality. Since then, the Governor and the State Departments of Health (DOH) and Motor Vehicles (DMV) have been instrumental in increasing the number of individuals enrolled to help combat what is a national health concern.

Charles Miller, MD, Chair, NYS Task Force to Increase Organ and Tissue Donation; Director, Recanati/Miller Transplantation Institute of Mount Sinai Medical Center, said, "The success of the Registry in a single year is indicative of New Yorkers' altruism. This is great news for those awaiting life saving and life enhancing treatments all over New York. On behalf of the Task Force to Increase Organ and Tissue Donation, I'd like to thank Governor Pataki, Commissioner Novello, Commissioner Martinez and all those who have enrolled for their tremendous support. The effort has been truly collaborative. The Task Force will continue its work to provide sustained public awareness of the Registry and the need to increase donation."

Charles Canver, M.D., heart transplant surgeon and director of the Heart Institute at Albany Medical Center said, "As we celebrate that over 100,000 people have pledged to become organ donors on the New York State Registry in its first year, we must remember that our nation is still in the midst of an organ shortage crisis. We, as a community, need to come up with new initiatives to make people recognize the importance of organ donation and make the decision to become organ donors. "

The New York State Organ and Tissue Donor Registry is a unique collaboration between the DOH, DMV and the transplant community. The vast majority of New Yorkers enroll by checking a box on their driver license or non–driver identification card application or renewal form. This creates a confidential computerized listing that is transferred electronically to a secure database maintained by the Health Department.

In addition to checking a box on their driver license or non–driver ID card or enrolling online, New Yorkers may also enroll in the New York State Organ and Tissue Donor Registry by sending a Uniform Donor registry enrollment form to an organ procurement organization or the State Health Department. Once enrolled in the Registry, individuals should also sign the back of their license or ID card to reinforce their wishes to become donors.

Of the 103,674 current enrollees, 359 enrolled via the DOH web site (http://www.health.state.ny.us), 598 enrolled by mail or by calling the toll–free telephone number, 922 registered through local organ procurement organizations and the rest enrolled through DMV sign–up activities. The enrollees number 59,201 women and 44,473 men. The 10 oldest individuals to register were born in 1910 and the two youngest were born in 1998. The largest number of enrollees, 5,815, were born in 1979, followed by 5,124 born in 1980.

For more information, contact an organ procurement organization listed below:
Albany 800–256–7811
Buffalo 800–227–4771
New York City Area 800–Gift–4–NY (800–443–8469)
Rochester/Syracuse 800–810–5494
Or, call the New York State Organ and Tissue Donor Registry at 877–752–3175.

6/25/01–68–OPA