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New York ranks 49th for registered organ donors

Ryan Delaney
Rob Kochik of the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network

New York state is among the bottom in the nation for residents signed up to be organ donors. Only about a quarter of New Yorkers have consented to being organ donors, according to the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network.

That ranks the state 49th in the country. But it has the third highest need for organs.

The low statistic has prompted a new advocacy campaign, hoping to improve those numbers, called Pass Life On.

"To the greatest person I’ve never known, I feel each sunrise differently now, thanks to gift you’ve given," the television spot begins.

"The real reason that the waiting list is so long is because, unfortunately, we miss opportunities or if someone hasn’t had the conversation, it’s much easier to say, 'well my wife never talked about it, so I guess she didn’t really want to be a donor,'" said the donor recovery network’s Rob Kochik.

He says they’re hoping to get people to think about becoming organ donors beyond the times they’re renewing their driver’s licenses at the DMV. 

"We’re not asking people to donate their organs today, so much as to just think about, we all know we’re not going to be here forever, to make that decision when that times comes," he said.

Carol Johnson’s son, Kenneth, died suddenly from meningitis when he was 17. Doctors confronted her about donating organs. She says the experience was a bit surreal, but she’s glad she consented to his kidneys and liver being donated.

"They got more time. And that’s what’s important, that that family got to spend more time with their loved one and prepare," she said. "What I wouldn’t give to have an extra month."

She hadn't thought about organ donation before her son's death. Now she's a volunteer and advocate for donation efforts. "It’s something that we’ve learned people need to about before they sign."

The average wait to get a new organ in New York is four years for someone in need. Montana, by the way, has the most organ donors. Eight in 10 people there are signed up.