Congressman Matt Cartwright

Representing the 17th District of Pennsylvania
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Rep. Cartwright Introduces Legislation to Address Nation’s Organ Transplant Shortage

May 26, 2016
Press Release

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright introduced the Organ Donor Clarification Act, legislation that’s aim is to address our nation’s organ transplant shortage.

The legislation was featured on Sunday’s broadcast of ABC World News Tonight.

“Twenty-two people die every day because they could not survive the wait for a viable organ,” Rep. Cartwright said.  “Kidney waiting lists in major cities can last from five to ten years, which is often longer than a patient can survive on dialysis.”

In 2014, out of the 100,000 patients with renal failure on the waiting list, fewer than one-in-five received a kidney transplant.  The legislation start to address the shortage by removing barriers donors face under current law and allowing for pilot program to test the effectiveness of non-cash incentives to increase the supply of organs for transplantation.

Currently, organ transplantation is governed by the National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) of 1984.  This law prohibits buying or selling organs for “valuable consideration.” 

“Confusion about what constitutes valuable consideration has hampered donation by scaring people away from reimbursing living organ donors for things like medical expenses and lost wages,” said Rep. Cartwright.  “Both are legal under NOTA, but the law’s lack of clarity and its criminal penalties have created uncertainty and prevented reimbursements in many cases.”

The expansive kidney waiting list is also a burden on our nation’s finances, as the costs are becoming hugely expensive for Medicare and drains several other social service programs.  Increased transplants would save Medicare and the government billions of dollars.  Experts project that eliminating the waiting list would save taxpayers well in excess of $5.5 billion per year in medical costs and billions of dollars more in savings to other social programs.

The Organ Donor Clarification Act would:

  • Clarify that certain reimbursements are not valuable consideration but are reimbursements for expenses a donor incurs
  • Allow government-run pilot programs to test the effect of providing non cash incentives to promote organ donation.  These pilot programs would have to pass ethical board scrutiny, be approved by HHS, distribute organs through the current merit based system, and last no longer than five years.

The legislation has been endorsed by the following organizations: Americans for Tax Reform, American Foundation for Donation and Transplantation, American Medical Association, Fair Allocations in Research Foundation, Transplant Recipients International Organization, WaitList Zero.

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