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Washington Legislators Take Step in the Right Direction

At the beginning of the month and amidst the outbreak of COVID-19, Washington’s legislative session came to a close. As we highlighted in an earlier blog, Washington legislatures debated a package of bills that would create protections for living donors.

Of these four bills, SB 6039, 6123, 6349 and 6216, only one was delivered to the Governor’s table for signature. While this was not the victory we were hoping for, the Northwest Kidney Council is grateful that SB 6123 will guarantee public employees paid time off for organ donation. This approval also makes us optimistic about the future of living donor legislation and the positive impacts it will have on individuals awaiting organ transplantation.

Recently, our Executive Director Samantha Siegner explained the importance of these protections and called on everyone to continue pushing for laws that help make lifesaving donations possible. Read her words below.

Washington policy encourages people to consider living organ donation, provides paid leave for state employees

They’re your neighbors, family members, friends and the strangers that you pass on the street. These selfless, invisible heroes are living organ donors, who bravely donated despite the lack of protections in place.

More than 112,000 Americans, including 2,000 Washingtonians, are waiting for a lifesaving transplant, and every ten minutes another person is placed on the national transplant waiting list. Unfortunately, many of these people will run out of time, losing their life because of this shortage.

This legislative session, Senator Keiser led the way by introducing several bills that would implement protections for living donors. Senate bills 6039 and 6216 would have prevented health plans from declining or limiting a person’s access to life, disability, health or long-term care insurance because of their status as a living donor. The legislation would have also allowed living donors to take paid leave to donate and recover from their procedure. While these bills did not pass, legislation that would provide paid leave for state employees who wish to donate, did. SB 6123 now awaits signature on the Governor’s desk, marking a win for patients and donors.

By selflessly donating, living donors not only decrease the wait time for patients on the transplant list, but they also increase the overall life and quality of the transplants. This has an exponentially positive impact on the person, their family and our health care system.

Currently, 82% of those waiting for a transplant need a kidney. For the 11,264 Washington patients battling end-stage renal disease (ESRD), also known as kidney failure, there are only two treatment options: transplant or dialysis. Lifesaving dialysis treatment can be disruptive to a patient’s daily life, as they must receive treatment three to four times a week for several hours. This routine can make it difficult for a person to maintain a high quality of life, travel or hold a job. For kidney patients, a transplant means they have a future beyond the inside of a dialysis clinic, yet fewer than one-third of kidney transplants come from living donors.

Why? When you become a living donor, you effectively inherit a pre-existing condition. It’s common for living donors to experience difficulty securing both health and life insurance, according to the American Journal of Transplantation. These heroes deserve equitable access to health, life and long-term care insurance and the assurance that they will not lose their job because they took leave to give the gift of life.

The Northwest Kidney Council is encouraged by the passage of SB 6123, but more needs to be done to protect these selfless heroes.


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