Assemblyman Pat Burke (D-Buffalo) announced today that he has introduced a bill that will create a new opt-out system for the organ and tissue donation registry in New York State. If enacted, residents ages eighteen and older will be automatically registered as organ donors unless they choose to opt-out of the registry.

“I’m introducing this legislation because I want to start a conversation about how we can get more people on the organ donation registry, and ultimately save more lives,” said Burke.

The proposed legislation would create a space on driver’s license applications for applicants to opt-out of the New York State organ and tissue donor registry.

Currently, over 9,000 individuals are on the waiting list for organs in New York State. While nearly all U.S. adults support organ donation, only 32% of those age 16 or older in New York are registered, compared to approximately 55% nationally.

New York State currently has the third highest need for organ donors in the U.S., with the second lowest enrollment percentage.

Under the provisions of this bill, sixteen and seventeen year olds will still be eligible to donate their organs, but they would be required to opt-in to the system.

“With this bill, more New Yorkers will become organ donors, but people will still retain the element of choice. If someone does not want to participate for any reason, they can simply opt out,” Burke continued. “A single organ donor can save up to eight lives and impact dozens more. This legislation has the potential to save countless lives.”

UPDATE FROM LEGISLATOR BURKE: 

It feels as though clearing up misinformation on the internet has become a large part of my job. I did not submit a proposal to harvest people’s organs after they die and I did not submit a proposal to have an automatic organ donor program for every New Yorker.

This proposal is meant to spark the conversation about the importance of organ donation. If this proposal became law, it would change the question on a New York State driver’s license application from an opt-in question to an opt-out question. Under this proposal, driver’s license applicants over the age of eighteen would have to opt-out by saying “no” to being an organ donor. The application would not be complete until this question was answered.

There are thousands of New Yorkers currently on the waitlist for a life saving organ. I believe this minor alteration on a NYS driver’s license application would increase the amount of people registered as organ donors in our state and could potentially save the lives of people waiting for a donor.

I do not intend to move forward with this proposal until it has earned significant public support, but it is my hope that it draws attention to the need for everyone to register as an organ donor. People can choose to donate the gift of life at https://donatelife.ny.gov/register/.