Illinois Senate votes to stop organ transplate discrimination

Sen. Barickman leads bill to stop discrimination against people with mental, physical disabilities

Illinois could soon put a stop to the practice of discriminating against people with mental and physical disabilities for organ transplant decisions.

Senate Bill 500, filed by Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington), whose district includes Livingston County, would amend the Illinois Anatomical Gift Act to update how organ donations are determined. Doctors, hospitals and organ procurement organizations would not be allowed to determine a potential recipient is ineligible to receive an organ donation based on the individual’s physical or mental disabilities.

“It is unconscionable to me that someone with a condition such as Down syndrome would be refused an organ transplant operation,” Barickman said. “This legislation would make sure that doesn’t happen in this state, and it would make it clear that organ transplants should be prioritized for the people who need them most, regardless of their unique differences.”

The legislation was inspired by a constituent, Kaylee Short, and her young son who was diagnosed with Down syndrome.

Short said she learned quickly certain rights and accomplishments that come more freely to most people would not come as fairly and easily to her son.

“I’ve lived in Illinois my entire life, born and raised. Realizing that discrimination could happen in our state to individuals with disabilities just like my son, who are in need of organ transplants to survive, broke my heart,” Short said. “These kids and adults are worthy of every opportunity we are, and most importantly worthy of life. They work twice as hard at everything they do. The idea that they should have to also work harder at fair opportunity to organ transplants is disheartening.

“I am so grateful that is one less worry that so many special needs parents in Illinois will have to face. Everyone knows Wesley will likely always need us, what I hope people realize is we will always need him more.”

The legislation passed the Senate on April 21 and is now headed to the House for consideration in that chamber.