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Teenagers added to list of eligible NY organ donor registrants


A new set of state laws have taken effect this year, one of them authorizing 16 and 17 year olds to make organ donations upon their death.

Previous law stated that the minimum age to make an anatomical gift was 18. As such, teens who applied through the Department of Motor Vehicles for a learner's permit could not register for the New York State Donate Life Registry.

Allowing young adults to register will subsequently increase donation rates, according to Nancy Ryan, the director of marketing and community relations for the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network.

“That left young people in New York without a way to express their wish to donate, and, frankly, left parents with a difficult responsibility of determining whether their teenager would have wanted to give that gift of life,” Ryan said.

The process to get registered can easily be done while renewing or receiving your license at the DMV. All applicants for health insurance offered through the state health benefit exchange are now also given the opportunity to register during that application process.

According to statistics, just one organ donor can save up to eight lives and improve the lives of up to 50 people.

Ryan said the lower age limit will greatly affect patients of transplant centers at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester and SUNY Upstate Medical University Hospital in Syracuse.

“Between those two centers, there are 600 men, women and children who are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant,” Ryan said, “Kidney, liver, lungs, pancreas, there are burn victims, athletic injuries, tears in the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), there's breast reconstruction. There are all sorts of needs for donated tissue.”

The legislation includes appropriate safeguards that enable parents or legal guardians to rescind the decision if the minor dies before age 18.

Sasha-Ann Simons joined the team at WXXI News in 2015 as a Multimedia Reporter/Producer. She tells stories about the innovation economy and technology in upstate New York and also does general assignment reporting. Sasha-Ann is the host of Arts InFocus, WXXI-TV's weekly arts and culture program. She is also a fill-in host and regular contributor to Need To Know.