Mayor Bloomberg and New York Organ Donor Network launch innovative organ preservation program

December 01, 2010

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the New York Organ Donation Network today announced the launch of a new pilot program to honor the wishes of registered organ donors and help save lives. Nearly 8,000 people in New York City are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant, yet the United States does not have a procedure in place to recover organs from locations outside of hospitals.

The new pilot program, made possible by a partnership between Bellevue Hospital and the City's Police and Fire Departments, will allow the City to test the feasibility of recovering organs from the 400-plus eligible people who die of cardiac arrest outside of Manhattan City hospitals each year.

"Donating an organ can save a person's life - that's why I am an organ donor," said Mayor Bloomberg. "But the unfortunate truth is that 8,000 New Yorkers are currently on the wait list for a donation, and there are barriers that make saving their lives not as simple as it could be. This new pilot program will help us test a process that could transform the way we donate organs and help save many lives."

The pilot program, the first of its kind in the country, provides the opportunity for preservation and recovery of kidneys from individuals who have died from a heart attack outside of a hospital setting and have documented their wishes to be a donor. Only kidneys and livers can be recovered from deceased individuals who die from cardiac arrest.

"The overwhelming majority of those who choose to become organ donors cannot realize their wishes, since most deaths occur outside of a hospital," said Dr. Lewis Goldfrank, Herbert Adams Professor and chair of Emergency Medicine and Director of Emergency Services at Bellevue Hospital Center. "The new Organ Preservation Unit hopes to meet the desires of those willing to become organ donors upon death, wherever death occurs. If our pilot is as successful as the experiences in Spain and France, New Yorkers will not have to wait an extended period of time for life-saving kidney transplants."

"On February 20th, 1999, my son James was in a tragic accident. He was only 31 years old and all the best medical care he received could not bring him back," said Regina Mirailh. "My husband and I were numb; it was the worst nightmare for any parent, but we realized that the only good thing that could come from losing our young wonderful son was to allow others to live through the gift of organ donation. If my son had died outside of the hospital, donation would not have been possible. We support the Organ Preservation Program because it would give every New Yorker who wants to be a donor the opportunity to do so, no matter where they die."

"My son became an organ donor after a deadly crash caused by a drunk driver. His gifts gave life to five people that were on the list waiting for an organ" said Celina Lopez. "Honoring his wishes to be a donor was the only good that came from this terrible tragedy. Having the opportunity to honor the wishes of our loved ones regardless of the place of their death is not only a blessing for the family, but a right and a privilege every citizen should have. This program will help save more lives. I applaud the New York Organ Donor Network, Bellevue Hospital, the Fire Department of the City of New York and Mayor Bloomberg for working to make this program a reality for every New Yorker."

During the pilot, which begins December 1st and runs through May 2011, Manhattan's Emergency Medical Services (EMS) calls will be monitored by a specially trained Organ Preservation team, comprised of a Family Services Specialist from the Organ Donation Network, a licensed emergency physician and two EMT trained Organ Preservation Specialists. The team will respond in instances where all resuscitation efforts have failed. If there is an organ donor card available, or if the deceased was registered on the New York State Donor Registry, the team will ask the family to honor those wishes by moving the deceased to the Organ Preservation Ambulance. At Bellevue Hospital, organ donation will not occur without written consent, or consent from the family or next-of-kin. While this program is designed to honor donor wishes and save more lives, extensive checks and balances have been integrated at every stage of the process to ensure the rights of everyone impacted by this new program are protected.

"By collaborating with EMS and other partners, the Police Department is working to expedite the process by which a donor's wishes may be realized and lives are saved," said Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly.

"We are pleased to be able to support and participate in this pilot through the leadership of Bellevue Hospital," said Health and Hospitals Corporation President and CEO Alan D. Aviles. "This pilot was designed to be protective of everyone's wishes and rights and has potentially far-reaching promise for those awaiting organ transplants. We are hopeful that it will prove to be an effective and efficient way of honoring donor wishes and making more organs available for life-saving transplants."

"Everything we do at the New York City Fire Department is focused on a single goal: saving lives," said Fire Commissioner Cassano. "Our Emergency Medical Service, which already responds to more than 1.2 million calls each year, is proud to begin this innovative new program that can save countless more lives each year. The truly wonderful thing about this program is that it not only lets us help those needing organs, it helps us honor the wishes of those who wanted to give the gift of life as organ donors."

"As the nation's largest transplant center, we applaud this important initiative," said Dr. Herbert Pardes, President and CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. "Our city will be taking a major step toward making sure organs are available to those in need."

"New York is currently ranked as one of the lowest organ donation rates in the U.S.," said Elaine Berg. "This program has the potential to begin to close the tremendous gap between the number of viable organs and the continuously increased need for life saving transplants. We can prevent needless death on the waiting list by honoring the wishes of New Yorkers who want to be donors, but die at outside of a hospital."

"This program is designed to be conservative to protect the interests and rights of all of the parties involved in this new process," said Nancy Dubler, Consultant for Ethics to the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation and Senior Associate at Montefiore-Einstein Bioethics Center. "It is an opportunity for all documented organ donors in NYC to have their wishes honored to give a gift."

Funded with a $1.5 million grant from the U. S. Department of Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the pilot program will initially cover the borough of Manhattan, with Bellevue Hospital acting exclusively as the donor hospital. Once completed, officials will review the program results and discuss the program's potential to be expanded to other parts of the City.

Over 109,000 people await a life saving organ transplant in the U.S. A new name is added every 13 minutes. While solid organ transplants are routine surgical procedures, more than 6,500 people die each year because an organ is not available.
Contacts: Stu Loeser/Jessica Scaperotti/Jason Post (212) 788-2958

Julia E. Rivera (Organ Donation Network) (646) 291-4456

Paul J. Browne (Police) (646) 610-6700

Francis X. Gribbon/Steve Ritea (Fire) (718) 999-2056

Steve Bohlen (Bellevue) (212) 562-4516

Ana Marengo (Health and Hospitals Corp.) (212) 788-3686

Lorinda Klein (NYU School of Medicine) (212) 404-3533

NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine

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