Does organ donation policy discriminate against mentally challen - abc27 WHTM

Does organ donation policy discriminate against mentally challenged?

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It's a classic case of biomedical ethics and it's unfolding at the Capitol. 

The question is simple. Its answer painfully difficult and heart-wrenching.

Should people with intellectual disabilities, or other mental issues, be denied a chance at life-saving organ donations?

It happens in Pennsylvania and many call it discrimination and want to see it banned.

"Good Morning, I'm Karen Corby and this is my son Paul," the Pottsville mom said to begin a press conference Monday morning.

Karen's son Paul has a heart defect. He needs a transplant but because he has intellectual disabilities was rejected from the waiting list. 

"To find out that he is not a candidate for a heart transplant, which is the only cure, because he's autistic is the most terrifying thing a parent can go through," Karen told the assembled media and supporters.

 Representative John Sabatina (D-Philadelphia) has introduced Paul's law, in honor of  Corby. HB 1474 It would end organ discrimination for patients with mental issues. 

"Individuals with a mental or physical disability deserve the same chance of receiving an organ transplant as any other person on that waiting list," Sabatina said.

 Mental Health advocates agree and they say their clients have the same rate of rejection as other patients. The organ failure rate is not higher among the intellectually challenged.

"There is no medical reason that someone on the autism spectrum, or someone with an intellectual disability, should be ignored or taken off the list if they have a need for a transplant," said Gabrielle Sedor, with Pennsylvania Advocacy Resources for Autism and Intellectual Disability.

 Of course organs are in short supply, and they are desperately needed. Panels at transplant centers across the state decide who gets them and who doesn't. Shouldn't they give those scarce organs to people with the best chance at a good outcome?

No, says Sabre Townsend, whose son has autism. 

"It comes down to deciding whether or not people are worthy of life," Townsend said. "And for me, I find that so incredibly egregious that it just pains me."

Mothers in pain have given birth to laws in the past. That's what motivates Karen Corby to keep fighting for Paul's law.

"To save my son's life. He is a brilliant author and human being and we love him," Corby said has her eyes filled with tears.

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