NEW YORK CITY — Teens can choose to give away their hearts in two ways this Valentine's Day.
As of Tuesday, New Yorkers ages 16 and 17 can register to donate their organs postmortem when they apply for a driver license, learner permit or non-driver ID.
State law had previously set the minimum age for the New York State Donate Life Registry at 18.
"This new law is a balanced effort to help in this administration’s efforts to expand state’s donor registry and help more New Yorkers receive the gift of life," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement Monday.
Organ donation rates in New York are the lowest in the nation, according to a 2015 study.
Experts have attributed those anemic rates to the state's demographics — statistics suggest that minorities are less likely than whites to give consent for the donation of their loved one's organs after they're declared brain dead — as well as a cumbersome online signup process and the enrollment age of 18.
By enacting legislation that lowers that age of donors, New York is following the example of 47 other states in opens the state organ donor registry to younger adults in the hopes of increasing enrollment rates. About 10,000 New Yorkers are currently in need of organ transplants and an estimated 600 on the transplant wait list die every year, according to state Assembly Member Felix Ortiz.
The law, which was signed by Cuomo in August, also gives legal guardians the right to rescind a minor's decision to donate her organs if she dies before age 18.
The state's registry is confidential, and can only be accessed by federally approved organ procurement organizations after one's death, state law decrees. Enrollment has no impact on funeral arrangements.