Health Commissioners Daines and Frieden Sign Up as Organ Donors in New State Registry

"Top Docs" Urge Others to Register Online to Give Gift of Life in Honor of 'National Donate Life' Month; New York State Lags Behind Others in Organ Donation

New York, NY (April 16, 2009) - State Health Commissioner Dr. Richard F. Daines and New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden today used New York State's new organ and tissue donor registry to pledge their own gifts of life. They also urged other New Yorkers to help meet the critical need for donated organs and tissues.

Any New Yorker who wants to sign up with the New York State Donate Life Registry can visit www.nyhealth.gov/donatelife.

The new "consent" registry reflects a change in state law, which took effect late last year, allowing New Yorkers to give legal consent to donate organs and tissues after death rather than just expressing their intent to do so – a choice which family members previously could override. Donors enrolled in the old "intent" registry (before July 23, 2008) are not automatically included in the new "consent" registry and must re-enroll separately to ensure that their decision is honored.

Every 13 minutes another name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list, with the need for transplantable organs far exceeding the number of donors. Nationally, more than 100,000 people now await organ transplants. That number includes 9,000 New York State residents, 7,500 of whom live in the greater New York metropolitan area. Thousands more require tissue transplants, such as skin to cover burn injuries and sight-restoring cornea transplants. Eighteen people die each day while waiting for a donated heart, liver, kidney or other organ.

While New Yorkers make up approximately 9% of those awaiting organ transplants nationally, New York State lags far behind other states in enrollment in donor registries. Approximately 2 out of every 100,000 New Yorkers are enrolled in a donor registry compared with Pennsylvania, where about 5 out of every 100,000 residents are enrolled.

"Signing up to be a donor online with the New York State Donate Life Registry is easy; it only took me a few minutes to complete the short questionnaire, print, sign and send it in," said Commissioner Daines. "I urge other New Yorkers to follow in our footsteps and sign up on New York State's Donate Life Registry."

"Save a life by becoming an organ donor today," said Dr. Frieden. "We all have the power to make this important choice, and now it's easy to do it. Go online and sign up today to brighten a fellow New Yorker's future."

Today's announcement, held at the New York Organ Donor Network offices, included remarks from two organ-transplant recipients – comedian Richard Ramirez and 11-year-old Gillian Cohen – as well as 18-year-old cornea transplant recipient Cody Sharp. Representatives of national and state organ-donation advocacy groups also took part.

"We urge New Yorkers to come together to ensure that every person in need of an organ or tissue transplant gets one," said Elaine R. Berg, President and CEO of the New York Organ Donor Network. "The one sure way to do so is to sign up on the New York State Donate Life Registry so that at the time of death, when we no longer need our organs and tissues, another person can live. Dr. Daines and Dr. Frieden are taking the lead in this very important health issue. I urge everyone to do the same."

How to Enroll

  • Prospective organ and tissue donors can enroll in the New York State Donate Life Registry online at the New York State Department of Health website at www.nyhealth.gov/donatelife or when renewing their New York State driver's license or non-driver ID.
  • Online registration is a simple process that takes only a few minutes. You provide your name, address, date of birth, height, sex, eye color, state driver's license ID number, and organ donation preference.
  • Online registration requires downloading a consent form at the end of the enrollment process. The consent form must be printed, signed and mailed to the state Department of Health to confirm enrollment is complete. Donor registration is not complete until the agency receives the prospective donor's signed consent form. All registry information is kept strictly confidential.

For more information on how to become an organ and tissue donor, please visit the New York State Health Department website at www.nyhealth.gov/donatelife or the New York Organ Donor Network website at www.donatelifeny.org.