Burke addressing organ donor wording on license application

He's deciding not to move forward with proposal at this time

Mike Baggerman
April 15, 2019 - 11:05 am

WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - Assemblyman Patrick Burke is clarifying misconceptions about a bill introduced in the New York State Legislature about organ donations.

The bill will create an "opt-out" system for the organ and tissue donation registry in New York State. If enacted, residents ages 18 and older will be automatically registered as organ donors unless they choose to opt-out of the registry.

Burke said there's been misconceptions about how the bill was reported in the media, and because of that, he has decided not to move forward with the proposal at this time.

"On our driver's license applications, there's already a portion for organ donors that you have to fill out to finish the application," Burke explained. "On that part is asks 'Do you want to be an organ donor? Yes or skip question'. That let's people skip the question and not feel bad about it...(This legislation) would switch the question and make it an opt out."

The New York State Organ and Tissue Donation is a required section of the application for a permit, driver's license, or ID card. This legislation, if passes in its current form, does automatically enroll someone into the Donate Life Registry, which has drawn a strong reaction from people.


"A lot of people don't trust the government, and some for good reason," Burke said. "I think there is a lot of fear around it, but that's not what it is. What this will do, though, is increase the chance of people becoming organ donors. They still have discretion of that choice and it will hopefully save a lot of lives."

Burke said people are not "automatically made" organ donors. He said they are automatically enrolled only if they fill out the application and they choose not to opt-out.

He said individuals who aren't organ donors will not suddenly become organ donors.

"All this does is switch the question to make it more likely for people to participate in the program, which will save more lives in the long run," he said.

Part of the reason why Burke wanted to introduce this legislation was to begin a conversation about people who are suffering due to a lack of organ donors. He added that he's received hundreds of messages in response to this legislation, which included death threats. He's encouraging people to not react to a headline without reading it.

"Our community certainly, and I'm sure the whole country and maybe the whole world, really needs a lesson in critical thinking," Burke said. "The reactionary nonsense has to stop. It was really extreme, especially for something that people really didn't understand."

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