Sweeney/Vitale/Beach Bill Prohibiting Discrimination Against Individuals With Developmental Disabilities Clears Assembly

A view of the Senate Chambers from the 2010-2011 Senate Reorganization.

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D – Gloucester, Cumberland, Salem) and Senators Joseph F. Vitale (D – Middlesex) and Jim Beach (D – Camden) that would prohibit discrimination against a potential organ transplant recipient on the basis of a mental or physical disability cleared the full Assembly today.

“People with developmental disabilities should not be treated as second-class citizens,” said 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, S1456, 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 Vitale. “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.”

“Hospitals and healthcare professionals should not be in the business of discriminating against an individual based solely on intellectual or physical capabilities. Their time must always be dedicated to assisting those in need. While most healthcare institutions do this without question, unfortunately, those that do not have made this legislation necessary,” said Beach.

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.

The legislation now heads to the governor’s desk.

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