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With Thousands Awaiting Transplants, Council to Discuss Expanding Organ Donation

Monday, October 24, 2011

Organ Donor (Flickr: Mika Marttila)

There are about 8,000 people waiting for an organ transplant in the New York metropolitan area. Yet, the region had less than 250 people donate organs last year — a drop of 18 percent from 2009. That's according to the New York Organ Donor Network, which covers New York City, Long Island and Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Pike County, PA.

The New York City Council Committee on Health will meet Monday afternoon to discuss efforts to increase organ and tissue donation.

In December, New York City launched a federally funded pilot project in Manhattan aimed at expanding the donor pool. Currently, registered donors who die outside of a hospital setting are ineligible to donate. The pilot program allowed a special emergency response unit to approach families about donation after a loved one died of cardiac arrest outside of a hospital.

Representatives from the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation will testify about the pilot project at Monday's meeting. The Bloomberg administration indicated the program could be expanded to other parts of the city depending on results.

New York state, as a whole, lags behind much of the rest of the country when it comes to registering organ donors. Only 15 percent of New Yorkers are registered as donors, which is significantly lower than the national average of 40 percent and lower than neighboring New Jersey, which has 31 percent of state's residents registered as organ donors.

In July, state health commissioner Nirav Shah launched an initiative to increase donor enrollment, with part of its goal to allow online registry using electronic signature. New Yorkers sign-up online to be in the organ donation registry, but they are not technically enrolled in the program until they mail in a signed consent form.

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