NJ Senate Passes Bill Prohibiting Discrimination Against Individuals With Developmental Disabilities

TRENTON – Legislation that would prohibit discrimination against a potential organ transplant recipient on the basis of a mental or physical disability cleared the full Senate Monday.

“People with developmental disabilities should not be treated as second-class citizens,” said state Senate President Steve Sweeney. “Their disabilities do not make them any less human or worthy of respect and common decency. They should be afforded the same rights as anyone would want when entering a hospital.”

The bill, S-1456, would prohibit discrimination against a possible organ transplant recipient based solely on physical or mental disability. The bill, however, would permit a mental or physical disability to be taken into account by a physician or surgeon to the extent that disability may medically impact the transplant. The legislation would also provide for an expedited court process for anyone who feels that its provisions are not being upheld.

“The greatest indication of who we are as a society is how we treat our most vulnerable citizens,” said state Sen. Joseph F, chair of the committee. “It is incomprehensible that a doctor or surgeon would just rule someone out for a transplant based solely on their physical or mental capacity. This legislation would fix that, without the government interfering in important decisions that have to be made by doctors and patients and their families.”

This bill was introduced in response to the story of Amelia Rivera, a three-year-old from Stratford, New Jersey who has a developmental disability known as Wolf-Hirschorn syndrome. A doctor at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) allegedly informed Amelia’s parents that she was not a candidate for a kidney transplant solely because she has an intellectual disability. In a joint statement with the Rivera family, CHOP apologized for how Amelia’s case was handled and unequivocally stated that the hospital does not disqualify potential transplant candidates on the basis of intellectual ability. CHOP and the Rivera family are currently evaluating Amelia’s potential transplant candidacy.

The legislation now heads to the Assembly.

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