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Gov. Carney signs bill banning organ transplant discrimination

Submitted photo
Sen. Debra Heffernan and others join Gov. Carney as he signs a bill banning organ transplant discrimination.

Gov. John Carney (D) signed legislation making Delaware the sixth state to ban organ transplant discrimination on the sole basis of a disability.

Carney signed the new law Wednesday at Nemours/Alfred I. du Pont Hospital for Children.  Advocates and officials were on hand to tout House Bill 21, which protects Delawareans with disabilities and addresses barriers to receiving organ transplants.

“Individuals with disabilities deserve the right to have access to quality healthcare and consultations. A disability should not be used as a tool for discrimination,” said Rep. Debra Heffernan (D-Brandywine Hundred), the bill's prime sponsor in a statement. “With this bill in place, families will have peace of mind and know that their loved one with a disability has the right to be treated fairly when they are undergoing the extremely taxing process of pursuing a life-saving transplant.”

A variety of medical and psychosocial criteria can be used by transplant centers when evaluating organ transplant candidates. However without protections in place, people with intellectual and development disabilities and their families may face barriers to receiving a life-saving transplant or may not be placed on a waiting list.

The new law addresses by making sure people with disabilities would not be deprived of transplant services or referrals or barred from an organ transplant waiting list. It does not require referrals, recommendations or performance of transplants that are deemed medically inappropriate.

“A true measure of the commitment of government to the people it serves is how well it addresses the needs of those who are living with disabilities,” said Carney in a statement. “By signing this legislation into law, we are taking action to ensure individuals with disabilities have fair access to organ transplant procedures.”

Medical professionals also touted the benefits of the bill, saying it will help all children have better access to transplants and treatment.

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, 447 Delawareans were waiting for organ transplants as of September 10. Nationwide, recent data shows that more than 115,000 people are in need of a life-saving organ transplant, and every 10 minutes someone is added to the national waiting list.