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New York ranks low in organ donations

Mike Desmond/wbfo

Albany is pushing harder to persuade people to donate organs and tissue when they die.

"Lauren's Law" is named in honor of now 12-year-old Lauren Shields from Rockland County, who received a heart transplant in 2009.

Sheilds has lobbied for greater encouragement of organ donations in a state which is 48th in donations, with only 18 percent of adults enrolled to donate.  Donation is higher in Western New York. Nationally the number is 43 percent.

9,700 New Yorkers are on the waiting list for donations among the 113,000 around the country awaiting a transplant.

The law signed by Governor Cuomo Thursday calls for a  question on driver's license application asking if people want to go on the Donate Life Registry or skip this question.

Upstate New York Transplant Services President and CEO Mark Simon says the new law is important in the push for more donations.
"How do we educate the public about the need for a donation and how do we get people to make a decision without us always having to call them at the time of death?," asked Simon. " So a law like Lauren's Law will now allow the DMV to ask that question and allow people to get on the New York State Donor Registry at the time they enroll."

Simon says there are 40 to 50 donations locally every year, leading to transplants into as many as 130 people.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.