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16-year-olds now can become organ donors in New York

ALBANY – New York’s age of consent to become an organ donor will drop from 18 to 16 years old under a new law Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed Thursday afternoon.

New York has the nation’s lowest percentage of registered organ donors, and waiting lists for some organs, such as kidneys, can stretch years.

“By authorizing 16- and 17-year-olds to make the selfless decision to become an organ donor, we take another significant step to grow the state’s Donate Life registry and create opportunities to save lives,’’ Cuomo said in signing the measure.

New teen drivers applying for permits and licenses have been unable to check a box indicating their enrollment in a state organ donor registration program. What often happens, then, is that many of those drivers don’t end up registering as organ and tissue donors until they renew their license – often well into their 20s.

The new law permits parents of 16 and 17-year-olds to still revoke the organ donation decision of their children.

Only about one-quarter of the state’s eligible residents are enrolled to donate an organ at the time of their death – one-half of the national average. The registration rates vary wildly around the state, and hospitals, physicians and others have been pressing for new ways to get more New Yorkers to sign up to donate. Nearly 90 percent of organ donor registrations come via license applications with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Aisha Tator, executive director of the New York Alliance for Donation, an umbrella group of health care groups, transplant surgeons and pharmaceutical companies, told The Buffalo News earlier this week that New York is following the lead of most every other state with no such 18-year-old age restrictions as New York. “This is New York catching up with the rest of the nation and addressing a public health crisis,’’ she said.

New York had just under 2,000 organ transplant procedures last year, and there are 10,000 residents on an organ donation list.

email: tprecious@buffnews.com

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