Approximately 10,000 New York state residents are waiting for transplants of organ, eye, and tissue donations that could save their life or make their quality of life better, according to a review of state data by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. The majority need a kidney — more than 7,200 New Yorkers undergo dialysis treatment while they wait for a donor.
“Time will run out for many of these people,” says Kathleen Robischon, MD, vice president medical affairs, clinical services at Excellus BCBS. In 2021, a typical year, 820 individuals in the state, including several under the age of 18, were removed from transplant waiting lists because they became too ill to undergo a transplant procedure, or they passed away before an organ became available.
“National Donate Life Month provides the perfect opportunity to remind community members about the importance of making an informed decision about organ, eye and tissue donation,” says Nancy Ryan, Director of Development for Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network. “Anyone 16, or older, can register as a donor - regardless of medical conditions. You’re never too old, or not healthy enough to sign up. Most important, making your end-of-life decisions about donation and registering as a donor spares your family from having to make those decisions on your behalf if you were to pass away. We encourage everyone who wants to pass life on through the gift of organ and tissue donation to enroll online in the New York State Donate Life Registry and then talk to their family about their decision. In this region, we’re fortunate that 63% of the population have already signed up, which is right around the national average.”
More than seven million New Yorkers have chosen to be organ and tissue donors by enrolling on the State's Donate Life Registry, which is less than half of the number of state residents who are eligible to donate.
All New York state residents aged 16 and older can enroll to donate their organs, eyes, and/or tissues after their death.
“The simple act of registering to be an organ donor can impact many lives in the future,” says Robischon. One organ donor can save eight lives and heal 75 more through eye and tissue donation. Donatable organs include the heart, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, liver, and intestines. Donatable tissues include the eyes/corneas, skin, heart valves, bone, blood vessels, nerve, cartilage, and connective tissues.
Registration is a legal document ensuring the person’s wish to be a donor is carried out. Family will be told of the decision and given information about the process, but their permission is not needed for the donation to proceed.
New York state allows people to register as organ and tissue donors through the Department of Motor Vehicles when you apply for a driver’s license or permit, through the Board of Elections when you register to vote, and through the New York State of Health Marketplace when you sign up for, or renew health insurance. You can also complete a paper or online registration form or check to see if you’ve already registered to be an organ donor at www.DonateLife.NY.gov.
April is National Donate Life Month. To learn more about organ and tissue donation, and the donor registry, visit Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network at www.donorrecovery.org.
Karen Feigel (585) 238-4308
Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is a nonprofit health plan with 1.5 million upstate New York members. The company's mission is to help people live healthier and more secure lives through access to high-quality, affordable health care. Its products and services include cost-saving prescription drug discounts, wellness tracking tools and access to telemedicine. With more than 4,000 employees, the company is committed to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce to foster innovation and better serve its members. It also encourages employees to engage in their communities by providing paid volunteer time off as one of many benefits. To learn more, visit ExcellusBCBS.com.