Organ transplant discrimination bill passes House

HARRISBURG, June 21 – The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has passed a bill that would prohibit discrimination of any potential organ transplant recipient on the basis of a physical or mental disability.

Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana, an advocate for organ donation, took up the bill after its prime sponsor, former state Rep. John Sabatina, became a state senator.

"Although there is a national set of standards for transplant candidates, some institutions consider other criteria -- subjective criteria -- such as mental, developmental and physical disabilities," Petrarca said. "Using these measures can prevent those with disabilities from being considered equally for obtaining a life-saving organ donation. It's unfortunate that legislation like this is needed in this day and age."

The bill (H.B. 585) would prevent an individual with a disability from being deemed ineligible for a transplant simply because of his or her disability, unless a doctor determines the disability is medically significant to receiving the organ donation. However, as long as the individual has the necessary support system to help ensure he or she can comply with post-transplant recovery, his or her inability to independently comply would not be deemed medically significant.

Once law, it would be known as Paul’s Law, named after Paul Corby of Pottsville. Corby was diagnosed with a rare, congenital heart condition called left ventricular noncompaction, which makes his heart less able to pump blood throughout his body, and requires a heart transplant. Corby also has autism, a mood disorder and an intellectual disability, which caused the Penn Medicine Radnor transplant panel to deny his request for a heart transplant in 2012.

This bill is modeled after similar legislation in New Jersey and California.