Questions and Answers About Organ Donation

Every 15 hours, someone in New York State dies waiting for an organ transplant. The shortage of available organs is so severe that in 2012, as many as 9,914 people were listed as waiting for transplants in New York State, for which there were only 358 deceased donors and 481 living donors, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. One donor can save up to eight lives.

The New York Organ Donor Network (NYODN), a federally designated organ procurement organization, and one of the nation’s largest, serves a diverse population of 13 million people in the New York metropolitan area. The organization facilitates donation with The Mount Sinai Medical Center’s Recanati/Miller Transplantation Institute, nine other transplant centers, and more than 90 hospitals in the region.

Helen Irving, President and CEO of the New York Organ Donor Network, and a former Vice President of Operations at The Mount Sinai Hospital, discussed the importance of organ donation with Inside Mount Sinai.

Q. Which organs can be donated?

A. You can donate your heart, kidney, pancreas, lungs, liver, and intestines. You can also donate eyes, cardiovascular tissue, heart valves, bone, skin, and soft musculoskeletal tissue.

Q. What is the best way for people to donate their organs?

A. Anyone applying for a New York State driver’s license, a non-driver’s ID, or renewing a license can check off the donor box. People can also sign up when they register to vote. The NYODN website has online enrollment forms that donors can sign and mail into either the NYODN or the New York State Department of Health. Click here to obtain the forms. You can also sign up on the NYS Donor Registry via the Department of Motor Vehicles on its online portal.

Q. Do you have to be 18 to join the donor registry?

A. Yes, but minors can instruct their parents or legal guardians to make them donors.

Q. Can the families of deceased organ donors prevent donation from happening?

A. No. If the deceased donor is entered into the registry, his or her donation is considered a gift that is irrevocable and protected by law.

Q. Do any religions discourage organ donation?

A. All major religions support organ donation and view it as a noble gift.

Q. Should people interested in organ donation discuss this with their families or loved ones?

A. It is important that loved ones know your wish to be a donor. In the event of a tragedy, they can donate your organs knowing that is what you would have wanted. Without this discussion, they would be left to make a decision at a highly emotional time.

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