Apr 18, 2013
Nearly 10,000 people are on a waiting list for an organ transplant in New York State, according to the New York Organ Donor Network. Every 15 hours, another NYS resident dies because of a lack of an organ donation. In 2011, that added up to nearly 600 people.
One culprit of this problem is the state's small pool of donors. Nationally, about 45 percent of eligible donors are registered, while in New York State, only 21 percent have registered.
Some 340 New York State residents are waiting for a heart. More than 8,000 need kidneys, 1,400 need livers, 50 need a lung, 145 need a pancreas, and close to 10 need intestines. Some patients need both a kidney and a pancreas.
April is National Donate Life Month. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital is teaming up with the New York Organ Donor Network to educate New Yorkers about the importance of organ donations and help raise the state's donor registration rate. Through its "1 for 8" campaign, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital reminds the public of the power of organ donations: one organ donor alone can save up to eight lives.
"Becoming an organ donor is simple, but its impact can be so profound," says Dr. Joseph Cooke, associate professor of clinical medicine and chief of pulmonary and critical care medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Dr. Cooke is also co-chair of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell's organ donation council and a member of the New York Organ Donor Network's medical advisory board. "I see on a daily basis the lifesaving power that organ donations can have for people in dire situations, and I encourage everyone to consider becoming an organ donor."
"Being able to give the gift of life can also provide a measure of comfort to grieving family members," says Dr. Kenneth Prager, professor of clinical medicine, director of clinical ethics, and co-chair of the organ donation council at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. "It's important to discuss your wishes about organ donation with your family members in case they ever need to carry out your intentions."
How to become an organ donor
There are a variety of ways to register to become an organ, tissue and eye donor in New York State.
- At the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV): Check off the donor box on your driver's license application or renewal form, or when applying for or renewing a non-driver identification card.
- Online: Visit donatelifeny.org, click the "Register Online" button, and fill out the Donor Registry enrollment form. Full instructions are on the website.
- By mail: Via donatelifeny.org, you can also print the form, fill it out, and mail it in.
- When you register to vote: On the voter registration form, you can also register to become an organ donor. New York is the only state that offers this to its residents.
No matter which method you choose to enroll, you will receive confirmation by mail from the New York State Department of Health that you are a designated donor. At that time, if you choose, you can specify which organs and tissues you may wish to exclude as a donor.
Here are a few facts to consider:
- Most major religions endorse organ donation, including Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam and most branches of Judaism. If you are unsure or uncomfortable with your faith's position, talk to a member of your clergy.
- Very few medical conditions automatically disqualify people from donating any organs and tissues. Even if certain organs are not suitable for transplant, other organs and tissues may be fine.
- Family members are never held responsible for any costs related to donation.
- Although it is important to join a donor registry and indicate that you are an organ donor on your driver's license, it is equally important to speak with your family, friends, and doctors about your decision, so that they are aware of your wishes.
- Your medical history is more important than your age. Organs have been transplanted from donors in their 70s and 80s, and even 92-year-olds have donated their livers in the United States.
- You must be 18 years of age to sign up on the New York State Donate Life Registry. However, parents or guardians can consent to donation on behalf of a child. The organ transplant waiting list is blind to wealth and celebrity status. People receive organs based on the severity of the illness, time spent on the waiting list, and blood type.
- Donating an organ will in no way delay funeral arrangements or change any funeral plans. Open casket viewing is possible after any type of donation.
- You can donate to someone who is not a relative including someone from another racial or ethnic group. However, transplant success rates do increase when organs are matched between members of the same ethnic background. A lack of organ donations among ethnic populations can lead to longer wait times for individuals within that ethnic group.
- You can also donate certain organs or part of organs (such as a kidney, or part of your liver) while you are living. Living donors improve the lives of the recipients of their organs every day and represent a very important group of organ donors.
- If you're in the hospital, the team of medical professionals caring for you is only focused on saving your life. Organ donor status does not factor in, and the doctors caring for you have nothing to do with transplantation.
Organ Transplantation at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital
The organ transplantation program at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital — which includes NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia and The Rogosin Institute — is the most active program of its kind in the nation, offering comprehensive and personalized care for the heart, liver, pancreas, kidney and lung. With outcomes ranked among the nation's best, the Hospital is dedicated to improving quality of life for its patients. NewYork-Presbyterian's dedicated teams of surgeons and physicians are responsible for many significant advances made over the past several decades in transplant surgery and the maintenance of healthy organs. The Hospital has been on the forefront of developing and improving anti-rejection medications (immunosuppressants), minimally invasive surgery for living donors, genetic methods to detect transplant rejection, strategies to increase opportunities for donor matching, islet cell transplantation and the FDA-approved left ventricle assist device (LVAD) that functions as a bridge to transplantation for those who are waiting for a new heart.
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, based in New York City, is the nation's largest not-for-profit, non-sectarian hospital, with 2,409 beds. The Hospital has nearly 2 million inpatient and outpatient visits in a year, including 12,797 deliveries and 195,294 visits to its emergency departments. NewYork-Presbyterian's 6,144 affiliated physicians and 19,376 staff provide state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine at five major centers: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division. One of the most comprehensive health care institutions in the world, the Hospital is committed to excellence in patient care, research, education and community service. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. The Hospital has academic affiliations with two of the nation's leading medical colleges: Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
New York Organ Donor Network
The New York Organ Donor Network (NYODN) is the nonprofit, federally designated organ procurement organization (OPO) for the greater New York Metropolitan area. Established in 1978, NYODN is the second largest OPO in the United States, serving a culturally and ethnically diverse population of 13 million people. Working closely with transplant centers and hospitals, NYODN coordinates organ, tissue, and eye donation for transplant in the New York region; educates the public and health care professionals about donation and transplantation; promotes the importance of signing up on the New York State Donate Life Registry. The organization works closely with 10 transplant centers, more than 90 hospitals, and various tissue and eye banks. NYODN is accredited by the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO) and a member of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), which oversees the organ transplant waiting list in the U.S.