Every 2 ½ hours a person’s name is added to the New York organ transplant waiting list
BY BILL DEMAREST
NEW YORK – You may not know 13-year-old Lauren Shields of Stony Point, but she may be responsible for saving your life of the life of a friend or loved one some day.
Lauren is the living force behind a new law that took effect this week, “Lauren’s Law,” that is designed to increase the number of people who sign up to be organ donors after death. A 2009 heart transplant saved Lauren’s life, and she and her family have become champions of making it easier for people to sign up to be organ donors.
In Manhattan, state Sen. David Carlucci, D-New City, and other lawmakers gathered with Lauren to celebrate the kick off of Lauren’s Law.
“Lauren’s Law will have a tremendous impact and save countless lives for those awaiting a life-saving organ transplant,” Carlucci said. “This effort would not have been possible without Lauren Shields and her family, who have put a human face on an issue that rightfully deserves more the attention. By making a simple change to an application, we will significantly increase the number of organ and tissue donors.”
Carlucci and Assemblyman Felix W. Ortiz, D-Brooklyn, were the sponsors of the bill and worked to pass it through the legislature before being signed into law. They were joined by organ donor advocates, medical professionals and city elected officials who also worked to ensure its passage.
“ I am so happy that Lauren’s Law will be in effect and I hope that New Yorkers choose “Yes” to saving lives when they visit the DMV,” Lauren said. “I want to thank Senator Carlucci and Assemblyman Ortiz for making this dream become a reality.”
The law is expected to dramatically increase the number of New Yorkers enrolled in the Donate Life Registry for organ and tissue donation. Here’s how it works: Anyone who applies for a New York State drivers license, learner permit, or non-drivers identification card now must answer whether or not they wish to be added as an organ and tissue donor. The new law adds the following language to DMV applications: “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.’”
Previously, New Yorkers were not required to answer such a question, only being offered the option to choose to register as an organ donor.
Carlucci said New York has one of the lowest organ donor rates in the nation, with only 22 percent of enrolled donors age 18 and over, compared to the national average of 45 percent. He said nearly 10,000 people in the state are waiting for a life-saving organ donation, and last year someone died every 16 hours in New York because of an organ donor shortage.
How critical is the demand? Every 2 ½ hours a person’s name is added to the New York organ transplant waiting list.
Since her heart transplant, Lauren has attended many public events to encourage the public to sign up for the organ donor network. She could be seen routinely as a speaker at Rockland County naturalization ceremonies, encouraging new citizens to be part of the lifesaving effort.
Here’s what some key players say about the new law:
Assemblyman Felix W. Ortiz said, ” I commend Lauren’s family for their hard work and dedication in helping to pass a law making it easier for New Yorkers to become organ donors. My family has benefitted from an organ donation and with this new law in place, may every generation of New Yorkers understand how their generosity during an unimaginable time of crisis can be turned into joy and hope for another suffering family.”
New York City Council Member Dan Garodnick said, “There are thousands of New Yorkers in need of an organ donation, and the list keeps growing every day. And yet, with a shortage of New Yorkers registered as organ donors, those in need might find themselves waiting years for a transplant to become available. Today marks an important day, as Lauren’s Law goes into effect. Now, all New Yorkers will be asked whether they want to be an organ donor when they get their drivers’ license, and that is exactly as it should be.”
Helen Irving, President and CEO of New York Organ Donor Network, said, “With Lauren’s Law, we are thrilled that New York State is making strides toward increasing the number of New Yorkers enrolled as organ donors, and ultimately increasing the number of lives saved through transplantation. Every 16 hours a New Yorker dies waiting for an organ transplant. As such, we commend the New York State Legislature, particularly Senator Carlucci and Assemblyman Ortiz, as well as Governor Cuomo for taking this important step to help reduce the gap between the number of organs available, and the number of organs needed for life-saving transplants.”