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Legislation pending in Albany would make it easier to join organ donation registry

Ellen Abbott
Tina Serio (left), whose family decided to donate her sister's organs when she died..

New York state continues to have one of the lowest percentages of its residents signed up to be organ donors. Now organ donation advocates are hoping some new state legislation will change that.

Every April, the organ donation program at Upstate University Hospital showcases patients who have been saved by organ donations, or families who have made the decision to donate organs from a deceased loved one. This year, Tina Serio told the story of how her family dealt with the sudden death of her sister, who had not made her wishes known before she died.

"It was a little bit rough because as far as like tissue, eyes, study, research, lifesaving, we had to make all those decisions for her,” said Serio.

Rob Kochik, executive director with the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network, says that angst would be drastically reduced if more New Yorkers signed on to the network. Right now about a quarter do; that’s half the national average. He says one way they hope to get more donors on the books, is through some legislation pending in Albany.

“[It would] allow 16- and 17-year-olds to enroll in the registry when they’re applying for their driver’s license. Right now they have to wait until they’re 18 and by then, they’re often doing other things and never get around to it,” Kochik.

Proposed legislation would also identify other portals in the state that would allow people to enroll in the registry, as well as making some bureaucratic changes that would create more mobile and digital ways to enroll. The legislation has passed the state Senate. Kochik is hoping it makes it through the Assembly by the end of this session in June.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.