April 29, 2010
by Kirsten Cole
Organ donation has become a vital way to save lives around the world, but a vast shortage of donors continues to mean people are losing their lives while on waiting lists.
But there is a unique proposal that could change all that.
New York State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky nearly lost his daughter, Willie, at 4 years old when she needed a kidney transplant, and again 10 years later when her second kidney failed.
“We have 10,000 New Yorkers on the list today waiting for organs. We import half the organs we transplant. It is an unacceptable failed system,” Brodsky said.
To fix that, Brodsky introduced a new bill in Albany that would enroll all New Yorkers as an organ donor, unless they actually opt out of organ donation. It would be the first law of its kind in the United States.
“Overseas, 24 nations have it. Israel has it. Others have it. And it works without a lot of controversy,” Brodsky said.
Currently one of the biggest obstacles to being a donor is while 9 out of 10 are favorable to it only 1 out of 10 is signed up to be a donor.
On Wednesday, the New York Organ Donor Network honored families who’ve donated the organs of loved ones with a planting ceremony at New York Botanical Gardens. Jean Carnevale had a timely talk about organ donation with her 27-year=old son before he died in a fatal car accident.
“Michael and I had a conversation two weeks prior on the way to a family member’s funeral,” Carnevale said.
And Emily Melendez and her siblings made the choice for their 68-year-old mother.
“Although I lost my mom, she lives on in three other people,” Melendez said.
“The thing about organ donor is we have the cure right now in our hands. It’s not like trying to cure cancer,” said Elaine Berg of the Organ Donor Network.
Legal experts said if the law is passed, it will likely face challenges in court from family members or some religious groups.
“I think it’s a little heavy handed. I think we should have the right to choose that,” said Rachel Rogers of Crown Heights.
But many are hoping this law will help people to make a choice — one way or the other.
Currently, you can make your organ donation wishes known by signing the back of your driver’s license, signing up online or through a health care proxy.