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

New York’s age of consent to become an organ donor drops from 18 to 16 years old under a new law that takes effect Tuesday. New York has the nation’s lowest percentage of registered organ donors, and waiting lists for some organs, such as kidneys, can stretch years.

New teen drivers applying for permits and licenses had 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.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the new law in August.

Unyts will be rolling out the new law Tuesday at Williamsville South High School where students age 16 or older will have the opportunity to learn about the New York State Donate Life Registry. The school’s Donate Life Club will be promoting the new law by hosting a registry and education event for students and faculty during lunch periods.

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.

With this law, New York joins 48 other registries, including Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, where there is either no age restriction to join the donor registry, or the minimum age is younger than eighteen.

There are nearly 10,000 New Yorkers on the national organ transplant waitlist, and close to 1,000 waiting in Western New York, according to Unyts.


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