Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed a bill to boost the number of New Yorkers who register for organ and tissue donation.
New York State has one of the lowest organ donor rates in the nation, with only 18 percent of adults enrolled donors, far less than the national average of 43 percent. The legislation, known as "Lauren's Law," adds new language to Department of Motor Vehicle application documents that is designed to encourage additional individuals to enroll with the Donate Life Registry for organ and tissue donation.
"With thousands of New Yorkers on the waiting list for organ and tissue donations, New York State must work harder to enroll our residents in this important life-saving program," Governor Cuomo said. "By adding this new language to DMV application forms, it is our hope that many more New Yorkers sign up to be on the list of those willing to donate an organ or tissue. I commend Senator Carlucci and Assemblyman Ortiz for their hard work on this legislation, and I thank Lauren Shields for her advocacy on this important issue."
Approximately 113,000 people -- 9,700 of them New Yorkers -- are on the national waiting list for organ transplants. On average, 18 people die every day in the United States from causes that could have been treated with a donated organ. In addition, tissue donated by one person can positively impact the lives of more than 50 other people.
To further encourage people to join the Registry and increase the state's pool of prospective organ and tissue donors, the new law adds the following language to DMV applications for driver licenses and non-driver identification cards: "You must fill out the following section: Would you like to be added to the Donate Life Registry? Check box for 'yes' or 'skip this question.'"
The bill was inspired by Lauren Shields, a 12 year-old girl from Stony Point in Rockland County who received a heart in a transplant operation in 2009.
Lauren Shields said, "I want to thank Governor Cuomo for signing Lauren's Law. It will save thousands of lives in New York. I vow to continue to share my story in hopes of inspiring people so they choose 'yes' to saving lives."
Senator David Carlucci said, "Lauren's Law will save lives. Right now in New York State, over 10,000 people are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant, yet New York ranks near the bottom of eligible people enrolled in the organ donor program. By making a simple change to the law we have a greater opportunity to increase the number of organ donors and save lives. I applaud Governor Cuomo for signing Lauren's Law and making this truly an extraordinary day."
Assembly Member Felix W. Ortiz said, "In enacting this law, our state will lead the way in increasing awareness for organ donations and make it an easy process to become a donor. My hope is that in a short time, people will understand how their generosity during an unimaginable time of crisis can be turned into joy and hope for another suffering family. I thank the Governor, Senator Carlucci and my colleague and friend Assemblyman James Conte whose own struggle kept the light shining on this serious issue."
Ted Lawson, Executive Director of Save Lives Now New York, said, "Save Lives Now New York is so very pleased to see that Lauren's Law has been signed into law by Governor Cuomo today. This is a great first step in changing New York State organ donation policy so that more organs will be made available for life-saving transplants. The officers of Save Lives Now New York, with the support of our board of directors, are proud to have been a part of this process and look forward to working with Governor Cuomo and the New York State legislature in the future on developing additional policy changes in New York that will shift New York State's present status as third-to-last place in organ donor registrations, and second-longest organ transplant waiting list, to being a leader in both of these areas. Hopefully, the passage of Lauren's Law will be a significant first step in that direction."
The new law takes effect in one year.