State and Region Lag Nation in Organ Donor Registrations
New York state adults register themselves as organ and tissue donors at less than half the rate of adults nationwide, but the need for lifesaving organs in New York state is among the highest in the country, according to a new report issued by Univera Healthcare.
While less than half of American adults (48 percent) are registered organ and tissue donors, only 22 percent of New York state adults are on the registry. Upstate New York’s percentage of registered donors (31 percent) is higher than the state number. In the eight counties of Western New York, 33 percent of adults (398,000) are registered organ and tissue donors.
"When I first saw the analysis, I thought this can't be right," said Martin Lustick, M.D., senior vice president and corporate medical director, Univera Healthcare. "Then I realized that the numbers are less about New Yorkers being less inclined to donate organs, and more about the barriers that exist to becoming an organ donor in our state.”
Additional donors on the registry would increase New York state’s adult organ and tissue donor registration participation rate, which currently is lower than rates in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Montana, at 84 percent, has the nation’s highest rate of adult participation, while Puerto Rico (17 percent) and Vermont (18 percent) have the lowest donor registration rates. Thirty-two states each have at least 50 percent of the adult population enrolled as donors.
According to the Univera Healthcare analysis, The Facts About Organ Donor Registration in Upstate New York, a pproximately 10,500 New Yorkers await organ or tissue transplants. They account for nearly 10 percent of the 123,000 Americans on the waiting list maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing, a private, nonprofit organization that contracts with the federal government to manage the nation’s transplant system.
Only California and Texas have more residents than New York state has on the transplant waiting list. Approximately 1,500 New Yorkers have been on the waiting list for five years or longer.
“Greater education about the need for organ and tissue donations and improving the process to become a donor will help save lives,” Lustick said.
On average in the U.S., 18 people die each day while awaiting a suitable donor. In 2013, 6,100 Americans died before receiving a transplant. Last year, 381 New Yorkers became too sick to remain on the waiting list, and 539 died awaiting a transplant.
“Individuals on the organ transplant waiting list are our family members, friends and neighbors, and it takes just a few minutes to sign up to give the Gift of Life,” said Rob Kochik, executive director, Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network. He encourages everyone to have a conversation with family members and enroll in the New York State Donate Life Registry.
Over the past 15 years, New York state has taken a number of steps to simplify the organ donation registration process. This past spring, the New York state budget included funding to contract with a nonprofit organization to administer and modernize the Donate Life Registry, creating an interagency workgroup dedicated to increasing organ, eye and tissue donations. According to donor advocacy groups, eight of the top ten state registries are run by nonprofits.
“NYAD is grateful for the Governor’s and the Legislature’s commitments to simplifying the registration process and to funding efforts to increase enrollments in the New York State Donate Life Registry," said Aisha Tator, Executive Director of the New York Alliance for Donation, a statewide nonprofit dedicated to increasing organ, eye and tissue donations. "There are too many New Yorkers, our friends and family, losing their lives when they could and should be saved. New Yorkers have an inherent generous nature, which is why I am confident we can improve the number of registered donors in the state.”
To make an organ and tissue donation available in your name, New York state residents can enroll in the Donate Life Registry when they register to vote or obtain or renew a driver’s license. Adults in New York state also can enroll as donors anytime, online, at my.dmv.ny.gov, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Web portal, or by completing a registration form available at health.ny.gov.
View the entire Univera Healthcare report, The Facts About Organ Donor Registration in Upstate New York (PDF)