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New York Hopeful to See More Organ Donors with New Laws

By: Bridget Clerkin October 26, 2017
(From left) Jeanne Shields, Lauren Shields, and New York Assemblyman James Skoufis (D—Woodbury), pose for a picture in 2016 at the New York State Assembly. Lauren Shields—the recipient of a donated heart—is the namesake of New York's Lauren's Law, a piece

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New Yorkers may have a reputation for being heartless, but legislation recently passed in Albany will make it much easier for them to say “I <3 NY.”

Called Lauren’s Law, the measure is intended to increase organ donor numbers—and organ donation awareness—in the state, which has one of the nation’s lowest donor participation rates. Originally passed in 2012, the law was made permanent earlier this month by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The measure targets those most likely to be considering the idea of organ donation for the first time: new license applicants at the Department of Motor Vehicles. It requires new drivers to check an answer in the box on licensing paperwork asking whether they want to be a donor, addressing the question more proactively, with the hope of bolstering donor rolls in New York.

Named after 17-year-old Lauren Shields, a heart transplant survivor who went through with the procedure at age 8, the legislation was signed along with a directive for the state health department to look for additional ways to provide opportunities for residents to register as organ donors, including through updating the state’s Donate Life Registry.

And recent numbers show New Yorkers could use some extra help. More than 10,000 people living in the greater New York metropolitan area are in need of an organ transplant, with a resident of New York State dying every 18 hours while waiting for a transplant procedure, according to numbers compiled by the nonprofit LiveOn NY.

New York also has a low donor rate nationwide, with 30% of state residents age 18 or older enrolling in the Donate Life Registry, compared to 52% nationally, the LiveOn NY numbers show.

But with Lauren’s Law now a permanent fixture in the Empire State, more New Yorkers will be able to show they’ve got miles of heart—and plenty of guts.

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