PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
April 24, 2013

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

Give the Gift of Life By Becoming a an Organ Donor

By Mary E. O'Dowd and Raymond P. Martinez

When it comes to giving gifts, there is none more precious and important than a second chance at life. April is Donate Life Month and both our departments - the New Jersey Department of Health and the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) - are working in partnership to raise awareness about the importance of organ donation. We are encouraging individuals to register and help us save even more lives.

In New Jersey, we are proud that more than 2.3 million adults are registered as organ donors, but we can and must do more to grow those numbers. But, sadly, eighteen people die every day in our country while waiting for an organ transplant and every eighteen minutes another name is added to the waiting list. Currently, nearly 5,000 of our neighbors are waiting for an organ.

The Christie Administration's commitment to organ donation starts at the top. Governor Chris Christie, who is a registered organ donor himself, understands the life-saving importance of organ donation. In proclaiming April as Donate Life Month in New Jersey, he noted, "Being an organ donor is one of the most profound gifts you can give, because you are giving someone else a chance at a whole new life - a healthy life. That is the greatest and most invaluable gift of all."

April is also Minority Health Month and it's important that we increase the number of diverse donors. According to the New Jersey Sharing Network, which works year-round to raise awareness about this issue, minorities represent 60 percent of those on the waiting list. Minorities are disproportionally affected by certain illnesses such as diabetes that can lead to end-stage renal disease and the need for dialysis or kidney transplant. This contributes to the higher number of minority patients on the transplant waiting list.

However, due to the important work done by both our departments to promote awareness of the need for organ donations, this is beginning to change. Recently, we have seen an impressive increase in donor registration throughout our MVC agencies. For example, the percentage of individuals registering as organ donors in the Newark Motor Vehicle Agency jumped well over 30 percent, and statewide, the increase has been over 13 percent.

New Jersey is well prepared to help individuals who receive donor organs. Currently, there are six medical facilities in our state with organ transplant programs. In 2012, they performed 549 kidney, pancreas, liver, heart and lung transplants - with kidney transplants accounting for more than half of the procedures performed. These facilities stand ready to help many more people in need.

We encourage everyone to help us raise awareness about the need for additional organ donors. If you are a donor, ask your friends and family to consider becoming donors as well. If you are not a donor, please consider registering. After all, through organ donation one person can make a difference in as many as 50 lives. Become a donor and give someone the miracle of having a second chance at life.

To register as an organ donor, sign up online at www.donatelifenj.org or at any of state's 39 Motor Vehicle Agencies.

Mary E. O'Dowd is the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health and Raymond P. Martinez is the Chairman and Chief Administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission

Last Reviewed: 4/24/2013