– As a living organ donor and strong advocate for organ donation in Pennsylvania, Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne) co-hosted a webinar for legislators and nephrologists with the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) on Thursday.
The virtual discussion, which included other living organ donors, transplant recipients and medical professionals, provided information on kidney disease and the need to remove barriers to organ donation.
Toohil donated a kidney to her late mother when she was younger. The decision profoundly changed their family.
“At age 23, I was a perfect match,” she explained. “I always thought, she made me, so it’s just a piece of her I’m giving back. It impacted all of us, including her grandchildren, who she got to be a grandmother to.”
Toohil also discussed House Bill 203
, legislation she is sponsoring that would ensure organ donors do not face economic roadblocks that might discourage them from making the gift of life.
“This piece of legislation would prohibit life and health insurance companies from discriminating against a living donor, and it would ensure family and medical leave is provided for an eligible employee during donation surgery preparation and recovery,” said Toohil. “My bill is going to encourage more organ donation and, of course, save lives here in Pennsylvania.”
House Bill 203, or the Living Donor Protection Act, passed unanimously in the House of Representatives earlier this month and is now under consideration in the Senate. Toohil was the prime sponsor of a similar bill during the last legislative session that passed in the House but did not come up for a vote in the Senate.
“We have lots of transplant centers in Pennsylvania, but not enough organs to go around,” said NKF President Dr. Paul Palevsky, a University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine professor and nephrologist. “There are somewhere between 80,000 to 100,000 patients on transplant waiting lists in the United States. Unfortunately, we only transplant about 26,000 patients per year. The majority of those are deceased donor transplants. The most effective way to get people transplanted is with living donation.”
“The condition (polycystic kidney disease) which caused me to eventually require a transplant is something I would wish on no one,” said Scott Little, one of the panelists who received a kidney from a living donor in September 2010. “However, the things I have been able to do, enjoy and accomplish post-transplant are experiences I would wish for everyone. It’s simply a matter of receiving a precious gift and, in appreciation, taking care of it the best you can.”?
At the close of the session, legislators were urged to take action by supporting Toohil’s bill and sharing information on NKF donation public awareness programs with their constituents.
Representative Tarah Toohil
116th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Rep. Toohil’s Office