By Elizabeth Cooney Boston Globe
For more than 20 years Massachusetts drivers have been able to register as organ donors when they renewed their driver's licenses. Now there's another way for them to let their wishes be known.
The New England Donor Registry of Donate Life New England allows adults to register as organ donors and specify which organs or tissues they are willing to give after their death, a choice not available through the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles.
The online registry, which went live earlier this week, will not replace the state's program, but will create another way to potentially boost donations and transplants.
"People's expectations are 'I should be able to sign up online for anything,' so we're simply trying to be as accommodating as possible to people who want to sign up," said Sean Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for the New England Organ Bank, which has created the registry with LifeChoice Donor Services of Connecticut and Western Massachusetts and the Connecticut Eye Bank.
In Massachusetts, 41 percent of drivers are registered donors, a rate above the national average of 38 percent. But the average includes states whose driver licensing agencies don't have donor registries, and Massachusetts ranks just 32nd among states with registries. Half of the states with registries open for five years -- long enough for licenses to be renewed -- have donor rates above 50 percent.
In New England, the rate is 38 percent, not including Vermont, which is planning to start a program for drivers to register as donors, and New Hampshire, which began its driver registration program in February. As in other states, drivers in Vermont and New Hampshire could indicate their willingness to be an organ donor on their licenses, but being listed in a donor registry had not been part of the program.
More than 100,000 people in the country are waiting for a transplant, including 3,400 in New England, but there were just under 28,000 organ transplants nationally last year.
Registering for organ donation can also help family members whom potential donors leave behind when they die.
"If somebody is signed up as a donor through the registry, we work to see their wishes are fulfilled," Fitzpatrick said. "We have found that the next of kin are very appreciative when they find out the deceased had made the decision. That way they are not the ones that are left having to make decisions that they might not really know how the deceased felt about. To make this decision now is oftentimes helpful to the next of kin."
“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
Register to be a donor in Ontario or Download Donor Cards from Trillium Gift of Life Network. NEW for Ontario: recycleMe.org - Learn The Ins & Outs Of Organ And Tissue Donation. Register Today! For other Canadian provinces click here
In Great Britain, register at NHS Organ Donor Register
In Australia, register at Australian Organ Donor Register
Your generosity can save up to eight lives with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants. One tissue donor can help up to 100 other people by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves
Has your life been saved by an organ transplant? "Pay it forward" and help spread the word about the need for organ donation - In the U.S. another person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 11 minutes and 18 people die each day waiting for an organ or tissue transplant.