Contrary to popular belief, disabled Americans do not have the same rights as able-bodied Americans. Yes, the Americans with Disabilities Act does help individuals receive equal access and opportunity, but not all the time.

As of now, there is no federal law that prohibits medical professionals from giving less consideration to disabled individuals for an organ transplant. Many might not know this, but it is time to educate ourselves about the horrific and ableist realities regarding this fact.  

According to the National Council on Disability, “While the United Network for Organ Sharing/Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network does not explicitly consider disability to be a contraindication to organ transplant, some doctors and organ transplant centers still consider disability, and particularly mental health disabilities, to be either a relative or absolute contraindication to organ transplant, often despite evidence to the contrary.”

This means that the bias and discrimination factoring into the organ donation process might not be obvious or even recorded, thus making it possible for medical professionals to decide whether or not a disability should disallow one from receiving an organ transplant. 

 A study conducted by the Standford Center for Biomedical Ethics found that 85 percent of busy pediatric transplant centers consider neurodevelopment disorders as a factor in their listing decision at least some of the time is an important finding.

Although the study was conducted in 2008, this fact is concerning as it shows the biases that individuals can have when making life-or-death decisions.  

Multiple children with Down Syndrome have been denied a spot on the organ transplant list due to their disability. It is important to know that it is not uncommon for individuals with Down Syndrome to be born with heart defects, which makes this fact all the more concerning.

 The Charlotte Woodward Organ Transplant Discrimination Prevention Act, a bill prohibiting discrimination on the basis of mental or physical disability in cases of anatomical gifts and organ transplants was introduced to Congress on February 2021. 

Currently, the bill is being studied by a committee. As we wait for a date to be set for a Congressional vote, individuals should sign petitions and write to their local congress members to urge them to pass the bill. 

Currently, 34 states have laws that prevent disabled individuals from facing less consideration for an organ transplant. While this is helpful, an issue this large should be protected under federal law to promote equal access and opportunity for U.S. citizens.

Disabled individuals face an overwhelming amount of discrimination and prejudice. While some discrimination occurs at a personal level and cannot always be prevented, all kinds of discrimination occurring at an institutional level should be eradicated. 

By denying disabled individuals a spot on the organ transplant waitlist, then medical professionals are ultimately communicating that those who are disabled are inherently less than those who are able-bodied and less deserving of life.

One cannot help if he or she is disabled, just like he or she cannot help if they need an organ transplant. 

All readers should take action and support this bill while it is currently being reviewed.

NDSS Advocacy Alerts provides a template for writing to your local congress members. All you have to do is enter your name, email and address and the system will send it for you.

By taking action, one is ultimately supporting disabled individuals who lived, are living and will live. It is crucial for all members of the U.S. to actively work together to create a society in which disabled individuals are free to live and experience just like their able-bodied peers

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