Andy Kim is a former GOVERNING staff writer.
There are approximately 9,900 people on waiting lists for organ donation in New York State alone, according to data from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. But barely 800 transplants with organs from deceased donors have been performed in the state this year. Since organs become unusable if too much time passes after death, most donated organs are collected from individuals who die in a hospital. However, Manhattan recently launched a pilot program creating a system that allows for the recovery of organs from people who die outside of a hospital setting. The program sends special "organ preservation units" to 911 emergencies involving individuals suffering from cardiac arrest. If the individual dies and is a registered donor, the specially trained unit attempts to preserve the victim's organs for donation by transporting the body to a hospital on a dedicated ambulance — only after receiving consent from the victim's family. Funded by a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health Resources and Services Administration, the five-month pilot will be evaluated for possible expansion to other parts of New York City.