Jun 8, 2021
Press Release

On May 28, Congressmen Joe Wilson (R-SC-02) and Matt Cartwright (D-PA-08) re-introduced the Organ Donation Clarification Act, a bill with Democratic and Republican support to reduce barriers to organ donation and allow for a pilot program to test the effectiveness of non-cash incentives to increase the supply of organs for transplantation.

“I am grateful to introduce this bipartisan bill with Congressman Matt Cartwright to address the organ donation shortage from which our country is suffering,” said Rep. Wilson. “In 2020, an average of 17 people in the U.S. succumbed to their illnesses every day because they could not survive the wait for a viable organ. In certain parts of the country, the waitlist can be over five years for a kidney. Current law lacks clarity and prevents potential organ donations. This legislation addresses those issues by removing the hurdles for potential donors and allowing new, innovative ways to increase organ donation. This would not only save taxpayer dollars but, most importantly, it would save lives. I am grateful to my colleague, Congressman Cartwright, for his leadership on this issue, and I look forward to ensuring this bill is passed and sent to the President’s desk.”

“The organ donor shortage is a life and death issue. Seventeen Americans die every day because they could not hold on until a viable organ became available,” said Rep. Cartwright. “This is a bipartisan solution to save lives and give hope to families with members on a transplant waiting list.”

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. 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.

Moreover, current law does not allow for any entity to test the efficacy of providing non-cash benefits to encourage donation. These benefits could include funeral benefits for deceased donors and health insurance, tuition assistance, or other proposals to increase the number of living donors. A 2019 American Economic Review survey indicates that between 65 and 80 percent of Americans would support such a program.

The Organ Donation Clarification Act would:

  • Clarify that certain reimbursements are not valuable consideration but are reimbursements for expenses a donor incurs; and
  • Allow government-run pilot programs to test the effect of providing non-cash benefits to promote organ donation.

This bipartisan legislation is endorsed by the American Medical Association, Americans for Tax Reform, American Transplant Foundation, Foundation for Kidney Transplant Research, National Kidney Donation Organization and Wait List Zero.

Additional co-sponsors in the U.S. House are Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN-09), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01), Mike Kelly (R-PA-16), David McKinley (R-WV-01), Del. Michael San Nicolas (D-Guam-At Large), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-09), Adam Schiff (D-CA-28), Jackie Speier (D-CA-14), William Timmons (R-SC-04) and Don Young (R-AK-At Large).

Text of the legislation can be viewed here