Legislature passes Padden bill banning organ-transplant discrimination

OLYMPIA… The Legislature has unanimously approved Sen. Mike Padden’s anti-discrimination legislation to protect people with developmental disabilities who are seeking organ transplants.

Substitute Senate Bill 5405 was passed March 8 by the Senate and April 9 by the House of Representatives. The Senate today voted 42-0 to concur with the House changes to the bill. The proposal now goes to the governor for final consideration.

“We need to recognize all lives have value,” said Padden, R-Spokane Valley. “Even though federal law prohibits discrimination for organ transplants, the word has been slow to reach many who make life-and-death decisions about eligibility. By the unanimous passage in both the Senate and House, our Legislature has made it clear that no transplant should be denied on the grounds of disability alone.”

In a recent high-profile California case, a disabled man was denied a kidney transplant because he has Down syndrome. California is among seven states that have passed legislation similar to Padden’s bill.

The measure would prohibit denials for the sole reason of disability. Mental or physical disability could not be used as a reason to deny transplant eligibility, surgery, medical care, or insurance coverage. Disability also could not be used as the sole reason for moving an individual to a lower-priority position on a waiting list. Nor could an individual’s inability to comply with post-transplant medical requirements be used as a reason for denial, if he or she has support from others who can provide assistance.

During a February hearing before the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee, Ashley Helsing of the National Down Syndrome Society cited a Stanford study showing 85 percent of pediatric transplant centers consider intellectual or developmental disabilities when determining eligibility for transplants. Some 71 percent of heart programs also consider disabilities as a factor.