Some of the best unexpected news to come out of Erie County in a long time was announced earlier this month by County Clerk Chris Jacobs. Because of efforts made by the Erie County Auto Bureau, the county has seen what he called a “significant increase” in the number of customers who signed up for the New York State Donate Life Organ and Tissue Donor Registry.
That marks a valuable trend, especially in New York, whose residents agree to donate their organs at the lowest rate in the nation. It is important to do better and Jacobs, working with Unyts, the region’s organ transplant organization, may be showing the way.
Most New Yorkers who sign up for organ donation do so at the state’s auto bureaus. The local effort was designed to train those employees about the significance of organ donations so they could better inform customers. It also enlisted organ donation ambassadors at locations across the county.
The success showed up in the numbers. Over a two-year period that ended in March, the Erie County Auto Bureau registered 45,565 people as organ donors. By comparison, 16,718 signed up over the one-year period ending in March 2014.
This means lives will be saved, and Erie County is not alone in looking to increase the number of registered donors. Niagara County’s three motor vehicle offices are in the midst of a friendly contest to see which can register the most organ donors this month, according to County Clerk Joseph A. Jastrzemski.
It’s important, though, to note that signing up is the start of the process, not the end. Those who agree to donate their organs should ensure that their loved ones know of their wishes, to ensure the prompt action needed to keep organs viable.
It’s also important to understand the rules that govern organ donation, since many people are squeamish about the process. For example, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing:
• If you are sick or injured and admitted to the hospital, the priority of medical professionals is to save your life. Organ donation becomes possible only after a physician declares that brain death has occurred.
• Strict standards, supported by a national computer system, are in place to ensure ethical and fair distribution of organs.
• Information about an organ donor is released to the recipient only if the family of the donor requests or agrees to it. Otherwise, a patient’s privacy is maintained for both donor families and recipients.
The need remains urgent, and from all races and ethnic groups. Transplants are more likely to succeed when organs are matched between members of the same ethnicity.
Those who haven’t registered as a donor should consider what the level of their gratitude will be if the life of a loved one is saved by a stranger who took the time to sign up at the auto bureau. It’s one of the best gifts anyone can offer.