Legislation Increases Awareness and Encourages New Jerseyans to Become Organ and Tissue Donors
TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale that draws awareness to the increasing need for organ and tissue donors throughout New Jersey was signed into law today.
“Donating an organ and giving someone a second chance at life is by far the greatest gift a person can give,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, Chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee and a registered organ donor. “To the folks living on the organ donation waiting list, and the thousands of others whose lives have been saved due to receiving a transplanted organ, donors are true heroes. However, there is a critical shortage of organ donors in New Jersey and around the country, and we have to do better.”
The law, A-3180/S-376, designates April as “Donate Life Month” in New Jersey. Additionally, the law requires the New Jersey Department of the Treasury to disseminate organ and tissue donation information with employee paychecks at least once during the month of April.
Through the provisions of the law, businesses with state contracts are encouraged to either participate in the Workplace Partnership for Life – a national initiative for businesses to promote organ, eye, tissue, blood and bone marrow donation to their employees and to provide opportunities for their employees to register as organ donors – or to create their own organ and tissue donation program. These businesses are also encouraged to notify their employees of their organ donation options.
Senator Vitale has been on the forefront of encouraging organ donation in the Garden State. The “New Jersey Hero Act,” which was signed into law in 2008, and was sponsored by Senator Vitale and Senator Richard J. Codey, created two new tools to increase the number of organ donors in New Jersey. Within five years of the bill’s passage, all New Jerseyans over the age of 18 who apply for or renew a driver’s license will first be asked whether or not they want to become an organ donor, or if they would like to designate someone as a decision-maker on their behalf, should they become incapacitated in an automobile accident. The law also creates an education component in high schools, to help drive home the importance of organ donation.
According to New Jersey Organ and Tissue Sharing Network (NJ Sharing Network), nearly 110,000 people in the United States are in need of organ transplants, including approximately 5,000 people in New Jersey alone. The organization notes that an average of 18 people die each day as a result of the lack of available organs for transplant.
Since Donate Life New Jersey – the organization that handles donations in the state – began partnering with the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission in 2006, organ and tissue donor registrations have increased more than 50 percent, but New Jersey still lags behind other states in the number of donors registered. Nationwide, 42 percent of registered drivers are organ donors; yet only 32 percent of New Jerseyans are on the organ donor registry.
“My hope is that by bringing more awareness to the desperate need for organ donors through ‘Donate Life Month,’ we can increase participation in the organ donor database and help the thousands more who languish on recipient lists until it’s too late,” said Senator Vitale.
A New Jersey resident can add their name to the organ donor registry by either indicating their desire while applying for or renewing their driver’s license or by signing up online through the Donate Life NJ Online Registry at https://emvc.state.nj.us/MVC_DLNJ/AVSStart.jsp.
“It takes only a minute to become an organ and tissue donor, yet only a third of those eligible in New Jersey have signed up,” added Senator Vitale. “It is important that people throughout the state know and understand the great need for organ and tissue donations and that this simple action while renewing their drivers license could save someone’s life.”
In March, the legislation was approved unanimously in the State Senate and with a vote of 79-0-1 in the General Assembly.