Panel approves bill to promote organ donations in Kentucky

Associated Press Writer
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A Kentucky advocate for organ donations
predicted that a bill advanced by a Senate panel Wednesday will
spur more donations leading to lifesaving transplants.
The bill updates procedures for Kentuckians to make, alter or
revoke wishes to make anatomical gifts. They could also expressly
state they don't wish to be donors.
The proposal, sponsored by Senate President David Williams, was
approved by the Health and Welfare Committee during a review that
had two Senate Republican leaders on opposite sides.
Paul E. O'Flynn, executive director of Kentucky Organ Donor
Affiliates, said about 700 people in Kentucky are on waiting lists
for organ transplants. He predicted the bill, if enacted, would
increase the number of people on the organ donor registry.
"That will, in the long run, increase the number of organ
donors that we have in the state," O'Flynn told reporters
The proposal would make Kentucky's organ donor law consistent
with laws in about 40 other states, O'Flynn said. It specifies that
if someone makes a decision about donating organs, it's the
family's responsibility to follow through that the wishes are
carried out, he said.
The bill also would give the Kentucky organ registry the same
legal weight as a living will or the back of a signed driver's
license, O'Flynn said.
In Kentucky, people getting or renewing a driver's license are
asked if they would like to be an organ donor. Names of people
committing to organ donations are added to a data base.
The bill was opposed by Sen. Katie Stine, the Senate President
Pro Tem.
Stine, R-Southgate, said the measure would move the donation
process away from requiring the express consent of a donor or next
of kin to a system of assumed consent.
She said the bill defines a donor as anyone who has not refused
to be a donor.
She said it "infringes on private property rights that go to
the most intimate and personal choices that a person can make."
"It is a noble and great gift for someone to expressly give
their organs," she said. "But this bill moves us away from
gifting and toward taking."
Williams stressed that the bill includes no assumption of
consent from a donor.
He said the bill would be helpful in a "very trying time in
people's lives, when they're trying to make decisions that will
make something slightly positive" in tragic circumstances.
Absent a person's instructions, a list of close relatives can
make the decision about organ donations under current law. But the
bill clarifies that relatives could not override a refusal to
donate or expand someone's limited organ gift, supporters said.
O'Flynn said the bill would add grandchildren and grandparents
to the list of relatives who could give consent to organ donations
by a loved one.
He said organ donations would remain a "family-centered
decision" under the bill.
Williams said afterward he was optimistic the bill would become
law. He told reporters that his disagreement with Stine over the
bill wouldn't create a rift in Senate GOP leadership.
"We don't agree on everything," he said.
The legislation is Senate Bill 4.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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