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New laws simplify consent for organ donations

Several legal obstacles to organ donation will be removed under measures approved by the State Legislature and signed by Gov. George E. Pataki, Assembly Majority Leader Paul A. Tokasz, D-Cheektowaga, said Friday.

One of several new laws passed in August and scheduled to take effect early next year, would make enrolling in the state's Organ and Tissue Donor Registry the same as consenting to donate. At present, joining the registry by signing the organ donor option on a driver's license application is considered merely an indication of intent to donate.

Tokasz pointed out a big legal difference: The driver's license stipulation "was never a consent agreement," but the law assures there will now be "a presumption that you are in fact going to be a donor." The law was co-sponsored by Assemblyman Robin D. Schimminger, D-Kenmore.

Other new laws will:

* Require the label "organ donor" to be prominently displayed on the driver's licenses of people who consent to donate and that license renewal forms include a voluntary $1 checkoff to support organ donation.

* Direct the state Health Department to spread information about organ donation through its education and outreach program.

* Require the Transplant Council to report on bringing the state in line with international "presumed consent" standards.

* Rename the Organ and Tissue Registry the Donate Life Registry.

* Provide tax breaks of up to $10,000 for certain expenses incurred by living organ donors, including travel, lodging and lost wages.

The $1 checkoff and tax-break measures were co-sponsored by Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo.

Tokasz, who urged families to talk about organ donation to avoid confusion over potential donors' wishes, discussed the legislation after presenting a $90,000 capital grant to Upstate New York Transplant Services. It will establish a family resource center and a small park at the agency's headquarters, 110 Broadway.

e-mail: tbuckham@buffnews.com

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