Gift of Life Donor Program Urges PA Residents to Help Save A Life Now!
In 1994, Pennsylvania passed what was then groundbreaking legislation supporting organ and tissue donation. Under this law Pennsylvania has been a leader in donation rates worldwide. However, despite our success, each year the waiting list grows. Each year, hundreds of people die waiting for a transplant in our commonwealth. The Donate Life PA Act is the first step towards addressing this public health crisis. It incorporates aspects of the current Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (which has been passed in 46 states), recommendations of the PA Legislative Budget and Finance Committee and input from stakeholders including the Hospital Association of Pennsylvania to ensure that we remain leaders in donation and transplantation.
Why we need the Donate Life PA Act:
•Too many people are waiting for organs in Pennsylvania. Today, there are more than 8,000 men, women and children across our Commonwealth waiting for a life-saving organ transplant.
•Too many people are dying while awaiting organs in Pennsylvania. Over the last 10 years, an average of 490 people died annually waiting for organs in Pennsylvania. That is an average of nine people each and every week.
•HB 30 will save lives. The demand for life-saving organ transplants greatly exceeds the number of organs that become available. The Donate Life PA Act will increase the number of organs available for those who need them.
What the Donate Life PA Act does:
•HB 30 maintains the existing requirement that hospitals notify their organ procurement organization (OPO). The referral process already in place in Pennsylvania hospitals does not change at all.
•HB 30 updates the hierarchy of who may make an anatomical gift. Under current law, a healthcare agent or power-of-attorney designated by the decedent is not always authorized to make an anatomical gift. House Bill 30, consistent with the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, corrects this by recognizing the priority of the decedent’s appointed agent. The bill also specifically recognizes other relatives such as aunts, uncles, grandparents and grandchildren.
• HB 30 provides for early testing for suitability. It provides for the OPO to conduct a minimally invasive blood or tissue test necessary to determine the suitability of a donor, preventing families from being unnecessarily approached regarding donation where a gift cannot be transplanted.
• HB 30 provides for a hospital administrator to authorize a gift. It specifically authorizes a hospital administrator to authorize a gift where no next-of-kin or other close contact of the decedent can be located.
• HB 30 expands membership of the PA Organ & Tissue Donation Advisory Committee. It provides for a member of a community health organization to serve on the board. It also directs that members be appointed in a manner reflecting geographic diversity with input sought from the Hospital Association of Pennsylvania and similar statewide groups.
• HB 30 provides for increased education regarding donation. It directs nursing and medical schools in Pennsylvania to include organ and tissue donation in their curriculum. It also directs the state boards of medicine and nursing to encourage physicians and nurses who have not yet received instruction regarding donation to do so.
What the Donate Life PA Act does NOT do:
Unfortunately, we also need to talk very specifically about what HB 30 does not do because of an aggressive misinformation campaign led by one special interest group - the state coroners association. Many of their concerns actually relate to existing federal and state organ donation law and have nothing to do with the provisions of HB 30. The greatest change HB 30 makes affecting coroners is to require them to visit the hospital prior to limiting or denying organ recovery.
• HB 30 does not allow others to supersede the rights of donors and families. Rights of donors, those they legally designate, and family members remain paramount.
• HB 30 is not a presumed consent bill. Individuals designated in the bill, starting with donors, their families, or other clearly designated individuals, must authorize donation before it can occur.
• HB 30 does not expand the OPO’s communications with the family of a decedent. Federal and state law already provide that OPOs communicate with families at the time of a patient’s death in order for patients and families to have the donation option.
• HB 30 does not take away authority or jurisdiction away from Coroners. Coroners retain authority to deny organ recovery, as in current law.
• HB 30 does not permit the recovery of organs and tissue before a patient has died. This bill does not change current law about when recovery occurs.
For more information about how you can get involved, please visit www.savealifenowpa.org.