Voter registration may increase organ donations


Staten Island lawmakers push organ donation sign-up on voter registration forms

Published: Tuesday, August 14, 2012, 5:12 PM     Updated: Tuesday, August 14, 2012, 8:37 PM
Judy L. Randall  

temperino.jpg View full size Michael Temperino, chair of the Organ Donor Council at Staten Island University Hospital, introduces Tracy Iorizzo, who talked about the value of her daughter's organ donation, in this 2010 photo.

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Voter registration typically surges in presidential election years, and local lawmakers and good-government groups are hopeful of a side benefit this year: an increase in organ donations.

The New York State Legislature passed a law four years ago to include an organ and tissue-donor check-off box on voter registration forms, but it didn't take effect until 2009.

While New York is the only state to have organ enrollment on voter forms -- there's a donor line that you can sign on your driver's license, too -- the Empire State has a woeful rate of organ donations compared to the national average.

Just 19 percent of New Yorkers 18 and older are enrolled in the New York State Donate Life Registry -- compared to the national state average of 43 percent -- according to the New York Organ Donor Network.

Some, like Michael Temperino, who chairs Staten Island University Hospital's Organ Donor Council, think it might be because "we still approach the family every time ... and the family could say no," regardless of the wishes of their relative.

Others oppose organ or tissue donation on religious grounds.

Temperino called the possibility of additional prospective organ and tissue donors via new voters "fantastic."

"This is all to the good," said state Sen. Diane Savino (D-North Shore/Brooklyn). "We have to continue to find ways to get people to sign up to be organ donors."

Assemblyman Lou Tobacco (R-South Shore), the Republican ranker on the Assembly Health Committee, agrees.

"Even if it saves one life, it is more than worth the effort," said Tobacco.

The groups announcing the new push for donors Tuesday were: New York Organ Donor Network; Rock The Vote; NYC Votes; the League of Women Voters of the City of New York; Carry on Community Development Corporation; the LINKS, Hispanic Federation and the NAACP.

A New Yorker dies every 15 hours waiting for an organ transplant, according to the organ donor network.

One organ donor can save up to eight lives and one tissue donor can save or "improve" 50 lives, the group said.

The organ donor network wants to enroll 20,000 organ donors through voter registration in the New York metropolitan area.

Volunteers will be fanning out to high-traffic public places within the city, organizers said.

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