Codey/Kean Bill Would Help New Jersey Address Ongoing Blood Shortage

Bill Gets Final Legislative Approval, Paving Way for 16-Year Olds to Donate

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senate President Richard J. Codey and Senate Republican Leader Thomas H. Kean, Jr., which would help increase the availability of potential blood donors, was approved today by the full Senate. Bill S-2513, approved by a vote of 37 to 0, would lower the legal age to donate blood to 16 with parental consent.

“For too long New Jersey has had to rely on the generosity of out-of-state volunteers to help meet our blood donor needs,” said Sen. Codey (D-Essex). “This bill will help increase the pool of potential donors and hopefully save lives. If you’re considered mature enough to start driving at 16 with parental supervision, I think the same can certainly be true for blood donations.”

“Shortages of blood are a life and death issue for critically ill hospital patients,” said Senator Kean (R-Union). “Healthy 16- year-olds should be given the opportunity to help save lives if their parents give consent.”

Current law allows anyone 17 years of age and older to donate blood without parental consent. Sen. Codey said the aim of the bill is to open up the potential donor pool to help combat severe shortages like the ongoing one the state is currently experiencing.

In 2007, New Jersey used more than 59,000 units more than it collected. On average each year, the state imports 60,000 to 75,000 units from other states to meet transfusion needs. At this time, only 2.5 percent of eligible New Jerseyans donate blood compared to the national average of five percent. Currently, 22 states allow 16-year-olds to donate, two of which, Oregon and Kansas, do not require parental consent.

The nation’s blood supply depends on volunteer donors. According to the American Association of Blood Banks, as older volunteers decline due to individual health issues, blood collection facilities have relied in recent years on donations from younger donors. Blood collection data indicates that 10 to 20 percent of all whole blood collection in the U.S. comes from donors less than 20 years of age. In states where 16-year-olds can donate that percentage is even higher and the growth in donations among this age group is attributed to high school blood drives.

The bill, which has also been approved by the Assembly, now heads to the Governor for his signature.

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