Petrarca touts bill to modernize state's organ donation law at rally

HARRISBURG, Sept. 19 – At a Capitol rally today, state Rep. Joseph Petrarca joined advocates, organ donors and recipients to call for action on his bill to update the state's outdated organ and tissue donation law.

"We pass a lot of laws in Harrisburg, but I don't think many have the same effect on people as this bill would," Petrarca said. "We've lost too many of our friends and relatives who were waiting for an organ transplant, and we have the ability to change that. This bill would save lives."

Petrarca's bill (H.B. 30) would establish a comprehensive framework for public education on organ and tissue donations, clarify the methods for making such donations, streamline the process of working with law enforcement in deaths under investigation and update the law to reflect the best clinical practices to support donations for transplantation. The law would be known as the Donate Life PA Act.

Pennsylvania's Uniform Anatomical Gift Act was enacted more than 20 years ago, and hasn't been updated since.

"Even in this day and age with all of the advances in medicine and technology, the number of people waiting for a transplant continues to grow. This measure will make more organs available for those in need," Petrarca said.

Public education would include providing information about organ and tissue donation to high schools, and medical and nursing schools. The bill also would reinforce the priority of transplantation in the law and affirm that anatomical donations must be initially referred to a federally designated organ procurement agency, so that donations are subject to regulatory oversight.

Pennsylvania's current law was crafted in 1994 by Petrarca's father, the late Rep. Joseph A. Petrarca Sr., himself an organ donation recipient.

"Organ donation can give people a second chance at life. That's why this measure is so important," said Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana.
According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1,993 transplants were performed in Pennsylvania in 2015 and 1,351 transplants have been performed this year to date. However, as of Sept. 9, 7,974 Pennsylvanians are on the organ donation waiting list.

There are 90 co-sponsors of the bill. Petrarca said the bill is expected to be voted on by the House later this month.