A step closer to ending a practice that's already illegal

A step closer to ending a practice that's already illegal

A step closer to ending a practice that's already illegal

Even if Congress doesn't allow hospitals to be sued for refusing lifesaving organ transplants for people with disabilities, a pro-lifer says there's plenty more than can do to prevent that kind of discrimination from continuing.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) first introduced the Charlotte Woodward Organ Transplant Discrimination Prevention Act (HR 2706/ SB 1183) in 2021, after Zion Sarmiento, a baby born with Down syndrome, died when four hospitals refused to give him a heart transplant.

Reintroduced this session, it is a bipartisan effort to ensure people with disabilities are not denied lifesaving organ transplants.

Popik, Jennifer (NRLC) Popik

"There's been work both federally and in the states to ensure that people aren't denied organ transplants solely on the basis of disability, meaning we're not going to give you an organ because you have Down syndrome, or we're not going to give you an organ perhaps because you have some kind of like mental health issues -- things like this that are considered disabilities," the National Right to Life Committee's Jennifer Popik explains.

Even if this Congress does not approve the measure, she believes the federal government can still send an instructional message to hospitals:

"This is already against the Americans with Disabilities Act; you can't be doing this," the pro-lifer points out. "I think what's really critical is there needs to be like a rapid-fire reporting system for families that feel like they're being discriminated against, and I think that's stuff the government could do now."

Live Action News makes note of a 2008 study from the Autism Self-Advocacy Network that found 85% of pediatric transplant centers take neurodevelopmental status into consideration when approving or denying transplants.

More recently, a 2016 letter sent to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights included a statement from Dr. Arthur Caplan, director of medical ethics for New York University's Langone Medical Center, which said, "If the potential recipient is severely intellectually impaired… I do not think it makes sense to consider that child for a transplant."

Rubio's proposed bill is named after Charlotte Woodward, who is one of the very few people in the world with Down syndrome who has had the opportunity to receive a lifesaving heart transplant. She has been fighting against discrimination impacting people with disabilities for years.

Last month, the bill passed the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, clearing its first hurdle towards becoming law.