N.J. Senate passes bill outlawing disability discrimination in transplant decisions

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By a 33-0 vote, the New Jersey Senate approved a bill August 20 barring hospitals from basing organ transplant decisions solely on the basis of the potential recipients disability, except in particularly severe circumstances.

“The bill specifically provides that an individual who is a candidate to receive an anatomical gift shall not be deemed ineligible solely based on the individual’s physical or mental disability, except to the extent that the physical or mental disability has been found by a physician or surgeon to be medically significant to the provision of the anatomical gift,” the bill states.

The bill was prompted by the highly publicized case of Amelia Rivera, a 3-year-old girl denied a kidney transplant solely because she is “mentally retarded” by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in January 2012. The hospital has since reversed course and Rivera will receive a transplant from her mother.

The bill, introduced in January and approved by the Senate health committee in March, also states that the state’s court system must provide an expedited court process for individuals bringing discrimination claims in transplant decisions.

“People with developmental disabilities should not be treated as second-class citizens,” state Senate President Steve Sweeney told the New Jersey Star-Ledger. “Their disabilities do not make them any less human or worthy of respect and common decency. They should be afforded the same rights as anyone would want when entering a hospital.”