Commissioners Novello, Martinez Announce Goal of Half Million Donors in New York State Organ and Tissue Donor Registry by Year-End

Campaign Launched to Reach Out to State Employees as State Registry Now Totals More Than 382,000 Potential Donors

Albany, August 26, 2002 — New York State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H. was joined today at the State Fair in Syracuse by Commissioner Raymond P. Martinez of the State Department of Motor Vehicles to announce that they have established a goal to enroll 500,000 New Yorkers in the New York State Organ and Tissue Donor Registry by the end of the year. Accompanying the Commissioners at the press conference was a donor family and a recipient.

In addition, the State Health Department and the New York State Task Force to Increase Organ and Tissue Donation announced a major campaign targeting State employees to increase awareness of the need for organ and tissue donation and persuade more people to register as potential donors. During the next two weeks, more than 320,000 State workers will receive information about the New York State Organ and Tissue Donor Registry and how they can help save a life.

"Under Governor Pataki's leadership, the Registry was established and the response by New Yorkers enrolling in the Registry has been awe-inspiring," Dr. Novello said. "As we've seen time and time again, New Yorkers are caring and compassionate people. With their help we'll reach our goal of 500,000 enrolled to give what I call the 'gift of life.'"

"For more than two years the DMV and the DOH have worked together to urge New Yorkers to become potential organ and tissue donors," said DMV Commissioner Raymond P. Martinez. "We're pleased that so many New Yorkers have responded to support this life-giving program, and we're confident that tens of thousands of additional New Yorkers will respond to help us reach our goal of 500,000 enrollees by 2003."

One person who donates organs (hearts, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas and intestines) can save up to eight lives, while a tissue donor (corneas, bone, skin, heart valves, tendons, veins, etc.) can improve 50 or more lives by restoring eyesight, helping fight infections in burn patients and preventing the loss of arms or legs.

Nationwide, more than 80,000 people are on organ transplant waiting lists in this country, including nearly 8,000 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, 24,076 organ transplants were performed in the U.S. in 2001. Despite these developments, however, the number of patients who have died while on waiting lists has tripled during the past decade.

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.

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 enroll in the New York State Organ and Tissue Donor Registry by sending a 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.

As of July 31, 2002, of the 382,869 current enrollees, 2,998 enrolled via the Department of Health Web site and click on Life ... Pass It On), by mail or by calling the toll-free telephone number; 13,281 registered through local organ procurement organizations; and the rest enrolled through DMV. The enrollees number 225,173 women and 157,689 men. The 29 oldest individuals to register were born in 1910 and the four youngest were born in 1999. The largest number of enrollees, 13,233, were born in 1980, followed by 12,048 born in 1963.

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 1-866-NYDONOR.

8/26/02—88 OPA