Michigan House approves bills to broaden organ donation

Michigan
Michigan (WDIV)

LANSING, Mich. – People with a disability or a positive HIV test could not be discriminated against during the organ transplant process under legislation the Michigan House passed this past week.

Though the federal Americans with Disabilities Act bans discrimination on the basis of disability during the organ transplant process, organizations such as the National Down Syndrome Society say certain disability designations impact where a person sits on a transplant list, if they even get on a list at all.

One bill passed by the House puts Michigan on the same path several states have taken, outlawing the denial of a transplant or lowering a person's place on an organ waiting list because of their disability. However, no penalty for discrimination is listed in the bill.

The other bill would allow patients with HIV to donate their organs to HIV-positive recipients.

Both bills must be passed by the state Senate and signed by the governor in order to become law.

Nationally, in 2013 the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act lifted a decades-long ban on transplanting HIV-infected organs into recipients. Current state law doesn’t allow Michigan residents to receive organs from individuals who test positive for HIV so organs that test positive get shipped off to out-of-state recipients.

A total of 19 states and the District of Columbia have reversed their state bans on the donation of HIV positive organs, bill sponsor Rep. Felicia Brabec said before the House unanimously passed her bill.

“Allowing these transplants will also increase the total pool of available organs for all transplant recipients, regardless of their HIV status," Brabec said. "That means that this legislation would be saving the lives of both HIV positive and HIV negative patients right here in Michigan.”

A person found in violation of the bill, should it become a law, would be legally liable for damages for any losses.

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, about 107,000 people are on the organ transplant waiting list. Though HIV positive patients may receive HIV negative organs, this bill aims to increase the number of transplantable organs by allowing patients who test positive to also receive a positive organ, should one become available.

About 2,500 people are waiting for an organ transplant in Michigan, said Dorrie Dils, Gift of Life Michigan CEO. Though HIV-positive patients make up a small portion of those waiting, giving them the opportunity to donate life-saving organs is a step in the right direction for the state, especially during Pride Month.

“It’s very appropriate that we’re doing this in this particular month. We want all people to be able to be donors who wish to be and this would provide the HIV positive community that opportunity to do so," Dils said.

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