COLUMN: Organ donors can register online; one donor has potential to save eight lives

— In recent years, New York was criticized for having a low organ donation rate compared to other states. This month, the process became easier and those who wish to donate their organs can do so online.

Currently, more than 2.7 million New Yorkers are registered as organ donors, but that number represents only 18 percent of the possible donors in the state. The national average is 42 percent. Clearly we need to make improvements. It is said that one organ donor can save up to eight lives and improve the lives of up to 50 people by donating tissues. It may be one of the most important decisions you make.

In April, New York launched a web site that accepts electronic signatures at dmv.ny.gov. This is meaningful progress and I hope it bolsters organ donation statistics in our state.

Some people may not be aware that on the back every New York State license is the option to sign and be considered an organ donor at the time of death. All you have to do is sign, however, this is only one part of ensuring your organs are donated. By enrolling online, those who attend your death can check this database and know your wishes. Also, if something happens to your physical driver's license, your wishes will still be honored. It is also important to talk to your family members and your doctor so they can ensure that your organs are used.

Under State law, the New York State Organ and Tissue Donor Registry, or Donate Life Registry, can only be accessed to determine an individual's donation status after death and only by a federally approved organ procurement organization or licensed eye and tissue bank. Enrolling to be an organ donor will not affect one's medical care and/or funeral arrangements, and there is no cost to the donor's family. Anyone over age 18 can sign up to be a potential organ donor, regardless of their medical history.

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