In order to give the gift of life to another, a living organ donor not only sacrifices a part of his or her body for another, but also endures the necessary medical procedure, the healing and other hardships. While many have undertaken this incredibly generous act, there is a huge gap between those awaiting an organ or tissue transplant and the organs and tissues available for transplant.
Every year, in New York state, approximately 1,000 people agree to donate tissues and organs. People give bone marrow, kidneys, a lung, or part of their liver so someone else can live. The most common transplant is the kidney transplant. Most living donations happen among family members or between close friends but, at times, others donate to complete strangers. Whatever the case, the decision to be a living donor is a personal one. Donating is selfless, and studies have shown that living donors live just as long as people who never donate. However, it is naïve to not recognize that living donors can face medical, financial and emotional risks as a result of being a donor. It is for this reason that I was pleased that this year the NYS legislature passed the Living Donor Protection Act and I am hopeful that the Governor signs this legislation so that it becomes law.
The Living Donor Protection Act, if it becomes law, will, among other things, (i) direct the State Health Commissioner to provide public health outreach and education to help the public understand the benefits and risks of being a living donor and (ii) provide some financial security by ensuring that those who choose to give the gift of life are protected from insurance discrimination. This legislation will build on what we already do in New York to encourage donation. For instance, New York, similar to 15 other states, gives living donors an income tax deduction of up to $10,000 to help offset the costs of travel, lodging and lost wages resulting from organ donation.
As far as insurance discrimination, the Living Donor Protection Act, will prohibit insurers from charging more or canceling an insured’s health, accident, or life insurance policy based solely on the insured’s status as a living donor. The act also would prohibit insurers from precluding an insured from being a living donor as a condition of receiving life, accident, or health insurance coverage. In all, if a person is altruistic enough to provide life to another, the last thing they should be worried about is having their insurance canceled as a result of their generous act.
I hope that these steps, while minor in comparison to the sacrifice that a living donor willingly makes, will encourage more to consider being a living donor. If you would like to learn more about being a living donor, please visithttps://www.organdonor.gov/about/process/living-donation.html. If you have any questions or comments regarding this or any other state issue, please feel free to contact me. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at [email protected], or by calling (315) 598-5185. You can also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.