A few word changes later, Lauren’s Law, named for Stony Point resident and heart transplant recipient Lauren Shields, is on its way to becoming a law. Last year, the bill stalled in the Assembly when some questioned the wording that would be placed on drivers license applications, designed to encourage organ transplant registry participation. (The photo, from December 2011, shows Lauren — then 11, now 12 — urging newly naturalized citizens to become organ donors during a Naturalization Ceremony at Nyack High School.)
Here’s an editorial published April 15, 2011 from The Journal News/LoHud.com Editorial Board:
Big boost for organ donation
Unlike most bills that carry a person’s name, Lauren’s Law honors triumph rather than tragedy. The bill puts the issue of organ donation front-and-center, and is aimed at giving people the opportunity afforded its young namesake.
The bill, which passed the state Senate on Wednesday, mandates that New York driver’s license applicants answer the question: “Would you like to be added to the Donate Life Registry?” The applicant can respond in the affirmative or answer “Not at this time.” Now, those filling out an application at the Department of Motor Vehicles may easily ignore requests to become an organ and tissue donor. That’s a missed opportunity.
Because someone didn’t ignore a similar request, a heart was available for Lauren Shields when her own was giving out in 2009. Because of that anatomical gift, Shields celebrated her 11th birthday on the same day that the Senate passed the legislation, sponsored by state Sen. David Carlucci, D-New City, whose district includes Shields’ hometown of Stony Point.
Some have questioned whether the DMV is the proper venue for answering such an important question about the disposition of organs. But there should be no doubting that Lauren’s Law is desperately needed. New York’s organ donor rate is abysmal. According to the New York Organ Donation Network, only 16 percent of eligible New Yorkers (18 and over) are on the registry. Colorado’s donor registry contains 64 percent of its residents; 63 percent of Utah adults are on that state’s list; the national average is 40 percent.
Nationwide, more than 110,000 people are waiting for life-saving organs — 8,000 in the New York metropolitan area. Organ transplantation is up to 90 percent successful, but too many New Yorkers run out of time waiting for organs. The state Assembly should follow the Senate’s lead and change that. Lauren’s Law will force motorists to consider all the good they can do in the face of tragedy.
A Journal News editorial