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Today, 13 Americans will die waiting for the gift of life -- a gift that only an organ transplant can provide. At the same time, a new name is added to the national transplant waiting list every 15 minutes. This list currently contains more than 87,000 names.

Research recently released by the National Coalition on Donation reports that nine out of 10 Americans support organ and tissue donation, yet only 34 percent know the proper steps for committing to it.

One critical step is making your wishes known to your family. When a hospital referral is received by our 24-hour communications center, the eligibility of the potential donor is evaluated and if all the determining criteria are met, a specially trained representative will present the option of donation to the patient's family or next of kin. It is completely up to the family to say "yes" or "no."

This choice is much easier for a family to make if end-of-life decisions are in writing and a conversation has taken place. Signing a donor card is not enough. Statistics show that if your family is not aware of your decision, your wishes may not be carried out. So voice your wishes. One donor can save or enhance the lives of up to 50 people.

Mark Simon

President and CEO

Upstate New York Transplant Services