Life-changing legislation signed into law by Governor Cuomo in August 2016 takes effect tomorrow, potentially impacting thousands.

The bill, A.4990B-Ortiz/S.5313A-Hannon, allows sixteen and seventeen-year-olds to express their intent to be organ, eye and tissue donors by enrolling in the New York State Donate Life Registry.

With this law, New York joins 48 other registries, including Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, where there is either no age restriction to join the donor registry, or the minimum age is younger than eighteen.

There are nearly 10,000 New Yorkers on the national organ transplant waitlist, and close to 1000 waiting right here in WNY.

“We are excited that this law is officially coming in to effect, and we applaud Governor Cuomo and our representatives in the Legislature for their work in passing this legislation,” said Mark J. Simon, Unyts President & CEO. “This is a significant change in policy for our state and takes a crucial step toward reducing the number of people waiting for a transplant to save and enhance lives.”

Age limitations that previously existed meant that parents didn’t know of their children’s intentions and may have been left to make difficult decisions when tragic situations arose. Now, New York has joined the overwhelming majority of other Donate Life registries in the nation by allowing these individuals to document their desire to help a fellow New Yorker in need of a transplant and enroll in the NYS Donate Life Registry.

Prior to this legislation, the minimum age required for enrollment was eighteen. Now, sixteen and seventeen year olds will be able “Check Yes” and join the NYS Donate Life Registry when visiting the DMV to obtain a learner’s permit or driver’s license, registering to vote, or any other means allowable by the NYS Department of Health. If someone under the age of 18 is considered as a potential donor the law states parents or legal guardians will make the final determination on whether or not donation proceeds. Upon reaching the age of eighteen, the enrollment will be regarded as consent to donation. The law is removing barriers for young people to fulfill what they feel is an important community responsibility, signing up as an organ, eye and tissue donor.