Oregon passes landmark living donor protection act

6.25.19

Oregon has made giant strides to protect living organ donors from discrimination, encouraging living donation and decreasing the wait time for transplant candidates with passage of Senate Bill 796.

Nearly 114,000 people are waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant according to data from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). The benefits of receiving a transplant from living donors far outweigh those from deceased donors. In addition to decreasing the wait time, organs from living donors tend to survive longer in their new environment and recipients experience fewer complications post-transplant. The average wait time for transplant candidates ranges between 3 to 5 years; 22 people die each day while waiting for a transplant. Currently, 851 Oregonians are waiting for a lifesaving organ donation.

“Living donation not only saves the life of the recipient, but also helps those waiting on the transplant waiting list for deceased donors. That waiting list continues to grow, and a key way we can affect change and help those waiting is through living donation. Removing barriers to make becoming a living donor easier will ultimately save the lives of many more Oregonians. Donate Life Northwest is very excited to see the legislation for the Living Donor Protection Act move forward in Oregon,” says Leslie Brock, Executive Director of Donate Life Northwest

Senate Bill 796, championed by Senator Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis), was passed nearly unanimously by the Oregon legislature and signed by Governor Brown. The legislation will provide job security for people who are considering organ donation by including living donation as a procedure protected under the state’s Family Medical Leave Act. Additionally, the new law will prohibit insurers from increasing premiums and limiting a donor’s access to health, life or long-term care insurance based solely on their status as a living donor.

“When you choose to give the gift of life, you inadvertently inherit a pre-existing condition,” said Scott Bruun, executive director of the Chronic Disease Coalition. “Studies have shown that a high portion of living donors have experienced difficulty changing or initiating a new insurance plan. This creates an unnecessary financial burden and stress on the heroes who help save people’s lives.”

Oregon is one of 14 states that have introduced living donor protection legislation in 2019 and joins New York, Maine, Idaho and Arkansas in passing protections. By removing barriers for organ donation, the Chronic Disease Coalition, Donate Life Northwest and the American Kidney Fund are hopeful that more people are encouraged to participate in living donation, reducing the length of wait time for many patients.

“We commend the Oregon legislature and Governor Brown for recognizing that Senate Bill 796 is good public policy that benefits patients, donors and taxpayers,” said LaVarne A. Burton, president and chief executive officer of the American Kidney Fund. “Living organ donors deserve more than our gratitude—they deserve legal protections that remove obstacles for people who are considering making a lifesaving gift.”