by Jan Degenshein
A worthwhile piece of legislation, commonly referred to as Lauren’s Law, sponsored by well-meaning NY State Senator David Carlucci (D-Clarkstown) is working its way through the NY Assembly Transportation Committee, on its way to a vote before the full Assembly. The Rockland Business Association (RBA) believes that the language of the law requires refinement.
As an individual, I profoundly believe that advanced planning to offer vital organs at death is a truly magnanimous gesture that will hopefully lead to the improved quality and prolongation of others lives. But as Chair of the RBA and its Government Affairs Committee, I must take issue with young Senator Carlucci’s portrayal of our organization as one which ‘€œwould choose to take a stance against saving lives.’€
At our last RBA Board of Directors meeting, not one board member objected to organ donation, nor an advanced directive as a pre-requisite to driver’s license renewal. Yet not one board member spoke in favor of omitting the individual license applicant’s right to decline offering his/her organ(s). Instead, the law would have such individuals check a box that states ‘€œnot at this time.’€ The converse language for a positive response would be ‘€œat this time.’€ In either case, it would leave family members, in their most vulnerable moment of bereavement, to ponder whether the departed might have had a change of heart; and to consider granting a change from a rather vague directive.
The present language fails on at least three measures:
- Those whose religious, and ethical beliefs prohibit the donation of organs are denied the right to an absolute negative answer; whereas those who wish to donate have the absolute right to a positive answer. This imbalance may be constitutionally challengeable, and would bring down the worthy efforts of those who wish to support organ donation.
- Some unenviable members of our community have irreversible health-related reasons prohibiting donation of organs. Should these individuals be permitted the option to state ‘€œno,’€ their wishes will have been met without debate or intrusion into their rights to privacy. If a ‘€œyes’€ registry does not run efficiently, as Ellen Hollander of the Alliance for Donation in New York opines, I wonder how many organs might then be transplanted that may foreshorten or otherwise diminish the quality of donees’ lives.
- ‘€œNot at this time’€ allows the prospective donor an opportunity to procrastinate ‘€“ to put off a decision ‘€“and ignore it for eight years until license renewal recurs. Many potential donor candidates will have been lost to avoidance.
In this writer’s opinion, New York State’s pathetically low percentage of registered organ donors has little to do with the language we as an association wish to substitute in the legislation. Rather, it has to do with the present milquetoast procedure that permits a majority of license applicants to avoid confronting an uncomfortable issue.
If nothing else, the pot that RBA has stirred has furthered public awareness of an extraordinary need that is unfulfilled. Not only will the select group of drivers license application be confronted with a mandate to ponder and choose a directive; but the broader citizenry now has an elevated consciousness of an unfulfilled need which it can meaningfully reduce; and in so doing, contribute benefit to others.
I urge each and every reader of this viewpoint to proactively pursue an advanced directive, whether through a driver’s license renewal or other available legal means. Our generosity in death can be a legacy of life to others. Until the language of the legislation is modified to equally represent the rights of all its constituents, the leadership of the Rockland Business Associations urges our assembly members across the state to vote ‘€œnot at this time.’€
Jan Degenshein is principal of Degenshein Architects Planners in South Nyack.
See also: A Perfect B’day Gift For An 11 Year Old, NyackNewsAndViews 4/15/2011