Senate passes Padden bill banning organ-transplant discrimination against the disabled

OLYMPIA – A bill prohibiting discrimination against the developmentally disabled for organ transplants cleared the state Senate Friday on a unanimous vote.

Senate Bill 5405, sponsored by Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, now moves to the House for further consideration.

“We need to recognize all lives have value,” Padden said. “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. The Washington Legislature needs to be clear – 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 hearing Feb. 4 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 of developmental disabilities when determining eligibility for transplants. Some 71 percent of heart programs also consider disabilities as a factor.

“Individuals with Down syndrome and other disabilities have lives that matter,” Helsing said.