Excellus BCBS: Organ Donors Half of National Average in NYS

Jul 29, 2014

New York State lags behind the US when it comes to registered organ donors but, ranks as the third highest for patients in need. Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield says that only 48 percent of adults are registered nationwide and only half of that figure, or 22 percent are from New York State. However, Upstate New York has a higher number of registered donors at 32 percent. Meanwhile, BCBS Regional President Dr. Arthur Vercillo sees first hand as a surgeon the positive impacts an organ donor can have on life.

A map of the NYS Donate Life Organ and Tissue Donor Registry compiled by the New York Alliance for Donation and courtesy of BCBS. Color coded areas represent Upstate NY organ donors.
Credit Blue Cross Blue Sheild.

“In someone who is freshly burned, to preserve the sight, to preserve sterility until a graft can be performed is a life or death thing. So, yeah I can tell you that I’ve seen many, many burn patients where this was critically important.”

Take a look at statistics of organ donors across Upstate New York by clicking on the diagram.
Credit Blue Cross Blue Sheild.

Vercillo adds that he’s also seen kidney patients undergoing dialysis who suffer from complications and the treatment alone is not going to be a satisfactory solution. One of the biggest impacts he’s seen from an organ donation is the benefits of an ailing personal friend who received a heart transplant.

”And to see someone who is on death’s doorstep and all of the sudden they’re given a renewed chance, a new life. And they can get out, they can walk, they can pursue physical activities, athletics, golf and be a productive member of society.”

Regional President of Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield, Dr. Arthur Vercillo
Credit Blue Cross Blue Sheild.

Doctor Vercillo says it happened because somebody thought in advance and signed up on the registry, in the event something tragic happened. He says that’s how organs can be a lifesaver for someone else.  Donors need to be at least 18 years old and Vercillo suggests having a discussion with family members to make personal wishes of organ donations known. While there's been an extensive advertising campaign to prevent smoking in New York, Executive Director of the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network Rob Kochik hopes more attention will reach out to potential organ donors.

"And I think what we visualize is there to be some financial support, as well, from the Department of Health to help save the literally 10,000 lives that are currently waiting for an organ transplant."

There are a number of ways to register for the State Donate Life Registry including while renewing a driver’s license and during voter registration. More than 10,000 people are waiting for organ transplants in New York State.  Last year, about 6,100 people died in the US while still awaiting an organ donor match. Below, there's more findings in the BCBS report. To view the complete report click here.

  • Fewer than half of adult Americans are registered organ and tissue donors, and less than one-third of adults in Upstate New York are registered donors.
  • New York State has the third-lowest donor registration rate in the country, yet it's ranked third-highest among all states by the number of residents in need of a transplant.
  • New Yorkers make up about 10 percent of the waiting list maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing, a private, non-profit organization that contracts with the federal government to mange the nations's organ transplant system. 
  • Today, nearly 123,000 Americans are on waiting lists for organ transplants. Of those on waiting lists, nearly 11,000 are New Yorkers.
  • Nationally, more than 6,000 Americans died while waiting for transplants in 2013. More than 500 New York State children and adults died because of the shortage of donated organs in that smae yaer.
  • On average in the United States, 18 people died each day while waiting for a suitable donor.