What Lawyers Should
Know About Organ Donation in New York
From The Division of Transplantation,
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
If you wish to be an organ and tissue donor, all you have to do is
say yes to organ and tissue donation on your donor card and/or driver's
license and discuss your decision with your family.
Nationally, about 63 people receive an organ transplant every day,
but another 15 people on the waiting list die because not enough organs
are available. In New York alone, 603 people died last year waiting for
an organ donation and 8,084 people are currently awaiting organ and
One part of the problem is that some people who sign donation cards
are not treated as donors. Even if you've signed something, your family
will likely be asked to give consent before donation can occur. Make
sure that you talk to your family members about organ and tissue
donation so they know your wishes! One individual organ donor can
save or improve the quality of life for more than 50 people who suffer
from organ failure, congenital defects, bone cancer, orthopedic
injuries, burns or blindness.
Who can become a donor? All individuals can indicate their
intent to donate (persons under 18 years of age must have parent's or
guardian's consent). Medical suitability for donation is determined at
the time of death.
Are there age limits for donors? There are no age limitations
on who can donate. The deciding factor on whether a person can donate is
the person’s physical condition, not the person’s age.
Newborns as well as senior citizens have been organ donors. Persons
under 18 years of age must have parent's or guardian's consent.
How do I express my wishes to become an organ and tissue
- Indicate your intent to be an organ and tissue donor on your
- Carry an organ donor card.
- Most important, DISCUSS YOUR DECISION WITH FAMILY MEMBERS AND LOVED
If I sign a donor card or indicate my donation preferences on my
driver’s license, will my wishes be carried out?
Even if you sign a donor card it is ESSENTIAL THAT YOUR FAMILY KNOWS
your wishes. Your family may be asked to sign a consent form in order
for your donation to occur.
If you wish to learn how organ donation preferences are documented
and honored where you live, contact your local organ procurement
organization (OPO). The OPO can advise you of specific local procedures,
such as joining donor registries, that are available to residents in
What can be donated?
- Organs: heart, kidneys, pancreas, lungs, liver, and intestines
- Tissue: cornea, skin, bone marrow, heart valves, and connective
- Bone marrow
If I sign a donor card, will it affect the quality of medical care
I receive at the hospital?
No! Every effort is made to save your life before donation is
Will donation disfigure my body? Can there be an open casket
Donation does not disfigure the body and does not interfere with
having a funeral, including open casket services.
Why should minorities be particularly concerned about organ
Some diseases of the kidney, heart, lung, pancreas and liver are
found more frequently in racial and ethnic minority populations than in
the general population. Successful transplantation often is enhanced by
the matching of organs between members of the same ethnic and racial
Are there any costs to my family for donation?
The donor’s family does NOT pay for the cost of the organ
donation. All costs related to donation of organs and tissues are paid
by the recipient, usually through insurance, Medicare or Medicaid.
Can I sell my organs?
No! The National Organ Transplant Act (Public Law 98-507)
makes it ILLEGAL to sell human organs and tissues. Violators are
subject to fines and imprisonment. Among the reasons for this rule is
the concern of Congress that buying and selling of organs might lead to
inequitable access to donor organs with the wealthy having an unfair
How are organs distributed?
Patients are matched to organs based on a number of factors including
blood and tissue typing, medical urgency, time on the waiting list, and
How many people are currently waiting for each organ to become
available so they can have a transplant?
Click here for the most current data : United Network for
Can I be an organ and tissue donor and also donate my body to
Total body donation is an option, but not if you choose to be an
organ and tissue donor. If you wish to donate your entire body, you
should directly contact the facility of your choice to make
arrangements. Medical schools, research facilities and other agencies
need to study bodies to gain greater understanding of disease mechanisms
in humans. This research is vital to saving and improving lives.
Where can I get additional information about organ and tissue
. Statistics and additional information about organ and tissue
donation is available at: United Network for Organ Sharing and at the
Transplantation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Information on minorities and organ donation and transplantation
is available at the website of the Minority
Organ Tissue Transplantation Education Program.
Information about the American Bar Association’s efforts with
regard to organ donation, the Third National Health Care Decisions Week
(October 20-26, 2002), and the ABA pamphlet entitled “A Legacy for
Life” may be found at: http://www.abanet.org/rppt.
Information about local Organ Procurement Organizations and local
activities and facts about organ donation may be found at: Organ Procurement Organizations (Organ
procurement organizations coordinate activities relating to organ
procurement in a designated service area. They evaluate potential
donors, discuss donation with family members, and arrange for the
surgical removal of donated organs. OPOs also are responsible for
preserving organs and arranging for their distribution according to
national organ sharing policies. There are currently 59 organ
procurement organizations throughout the U.S.), and, the Association of
Organ Procurement Organizations (The Association of Organ
Procurement Organizations (AOPO) is a private, nonprofit organization
recognized as a national representative of organ procurement
Information about the Uniform Health- Care Decisions Act (UHCDA)
(approved by the Uniform Law Commissioners in 1993) is available at www.nccusl.org.
Local Information: New York Organ Procurement Organizations:
Center for Donation and
Transplant (Eastern New York) 218 Great Oaks
Boulevard Albany, NY 12203 Phone: (518) 262-5606
Center for Organ
Recovery & Education (Chemung County) 204 Sigma Drive,
RIDC Park Pittsburgh, PA 15238 Phone: (800) 366-6777 / (800)
New York Organ
Donor Network, Inc. (Southeastern New York) 475 Riverside
Drive, Suite 1244 New York, NY 10115-1244 Phone: (212) 870-2240
York Transplant Services, Inc. (Western New York) 165 Genesse
Street, Suite 102 Buffalo, NY 14203 Phone: (716) 853-6667
Lakes Donor Recovery Network (Central New York) Corporate
Woods of Brighton Building 30, Suite 220 Rochester, NY 14623 Phone: