ASTS News

Reps. Nadler, Burgess Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Protect Organ Donors

Aug 11, 2014

Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Congressman Michael Burgess (R-TX), M.D., introduced the Living Donor Protection Act, to promote organ donation and protect the rights of living organ donors.

“Every year, thousands of living Americans donate kidneys, livers, and other organs to save the lives of family members, friends, and complete strangers struggling with chronic, life-threatening illnesses. An organ donor’s decision to undergo these invasive procedures saves lives and it also saves money,” said the Congressmen. “Organ donation saves Medicare millions of dollars every year. It cuts health care costs as much as two-thirds by reducing the need for dialysis and other expensive medical interventions to treat chronic illnesses. Yet, after taking this heroic step to save a life, living organ donors may unfortunately face discrimination when they try to take medical leave or buy insurance – our bill would address that injustice.”

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) does not specify that living organ donors can take unpaid leave to recover from their donation and does not guarantee that donors will have a job waiting for them after surgery. Further, according to a 2007 study in the American Journal of Transplantation, as many as 11% of living organ donors experience difficulty securing or paying for insurance after their procedures because of discriminatory practices.

The Living Donor Protection Act would promote organ donation and protect living organ donors in three easy, low-cost ways:

  1. Prohibits life, disability, and long term care insurance companies from denying or limiting coverage and from charging higher premiums for living organ donors;
  2. Clarifies that living organ donors may use FMLA time to recover from the surgeries and procedures involved in their donation; and
  3. Directs HHS to update their materials on live organ donation to reflect these new protections and encourage more individuals to consider donating an organ

“Rather than putting roadblocks in the way of living organ donation, Congress should encourage more individuals to become living donors and protect the rights of those donors to receive the insurance and medical leave they need,” said the Congressmen.

The bill has support from numerous groups that advocate on behalf of organ transplantation

“The National Kidney Foundation commends Congressmen Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Michael Burgess (R-TX) for their leadership in expanding opportunities for living organ donation that will ultimately help reduce the national shortage of organs,” said Bruce Skyer, National Kidney Foundation (NKF) Chief Executive Officer. “NKF has long advocated for additional protections for living donors, including prohibitions against denial of coverage or charging higher premiums for life insurance, disability insurance or long-term care insurance.  NKF has also maintained that people should be able to donate an organ without fear of losing their jobs. The additional protections under the Family and Medical Leave Act contained in this proposed legislation will enable more people to give the gift of life by donating their kidneys. The NKF is grateful for Congressman Nadler’s living donation efforts and for Congressman Burgess’s ongoing leadership on transplant initiatives.”

American Society of Transplant Surgeons (ASTS) applauds Representatives Nadler and Burgess on the introduction of the Living Donor Protection Act of 2014. ASTS has long supported the removal of disincentives to live organ donation, one of the greatest opportunities to increase the availability of organs for thousands of patients awaiting lifesaving transplantation. “Living donors should not have to worry about or suffer financial loss as a result of their benevolence,” stated Dr. David Reich, Chair, ASTS Legislative Committee.  ASTS President, Dr. Alan Langnas noted, “The Living Donor Protection Act of 2014 represents another important step toward the full removal of financial disincentives for living organ donors. Representatives Nadler and Burgess are championing sensible legislation and we wholeheartedly support their efforts.” 

“Living organ donation, the gift of a healthy organ given to a patient with kidney, lung or liver failure, is simply an amazing act of human kindness and part of the miracle of transplantation. The Living Donor Protection Act of 2014 supports the future of this form of organ donation by considering the special needs of the living donors and protecting their best interests while they are making this wonderful gift to another human being in need. The American Society of Transplantation (AST) applauds the leadership of Congressmen Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Michael Burgess (R-TX) for introducing this important and necessary organ donor protection legislation,” stated AST President Dr. Daniel Salomon, M.D., from the Scripps Center for Organ Transplantation.

“NATCO is very pleased to have Congressmen Burgess’s and Nadler’s continued understanding and support of organ donation and transplantation issues made even more apparent through the introduction of this legislation.  It will eliminate the punishment of denied coverage and increased premiums living donors too often receive for simply wishing to give the gift of life.  Additionally, it further supports living donors by making organ donation surgery a part of the Family Medical Leave Act as it should be,” said the Organization for Transplant Professionals (NATCO) President, Carrie Lindower, RN, MBA, CCTC, CPTC.

“I strongly support Congressmen Jerrold Nadler’s (D-NY) and Michael Burgess’s (R-TX) Living Donor Protection Act of 2014. This is a common sense approach to protect and promote the gift of living organ donation here at Columbia University Medical Center and around the nation,” said David Cohen, M.D., Chairman, Public Policy Committee - American Society of Transplantation (AST) Medical Director Columbia Transplant Center - New York.