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New proposal would require people opt-out of organ donation, rather than opt-in

The bill would not apply to people younger than 18-years old.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Right now there are more than nine-thousand New Yorkers on the transplant waiting list.

A state lawmaker from Western New York wants to make life-saving organs more accessible to people who need them, but not everyone is on board with his idea of how to accomplish that.

When you go to the DMV to get your license, you'll have the option of checking a box to indicate you're an organ donor, but Assemblyman Pat Burke says reversing that logic could save a lot of lives.

"If this proposal became law, it would change the question on a New York State driver’s license application from an opt-in question to an opt-out question," Burke explained in a written statement. 

According to Donate Life, each year, almost 500 New Yorkers die because an organ does not come in time to save their lives.

The new legislation suggests low enrollment isn't necessarily because people are against donating. 

"I recently had to change my address on my license and when I went there I saw the box and I just wondered how many people kind of look past that," said Lisa Blesy.

Blesy knows first hand the impact of organ donation. In 2012 she gave her kidney to her best friend Ryan.  Almost seven years later, she says she'd do it all again. 

Blesy explained, "He's able to be a loving father and husband and live his life the way that he deserves to live it without restriction."

But, not everyone feels the way Blesy does about donation and that's just part of the reason Burke's legislation is controversial.

Burke said, "Some people are kind of freaked out about the notion of being told that someone is gonna harvest their organs and that's not what this is at all. It's simply you still have a choice but you have to make the act of opting out. I want to make it clear, too, this is for adults."   

If the bill moves forward, it would not automatically register sixteen and seventeen-year-olds.

They would still have to opt-in, as they do now. 

Burke says the best case scenario, they can save many more lives.

But, at the very least, it could start an important conversation about organ donation. 

Burke also says he doesn't intend to move forward with this proposal until it has earned significant public support.

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