N.D. considers new organ donation law
BISMARCK - Nancy Galligo was one of the lucky ones. At age 29, after restrictive idiopathic cardiomyopathy put her into complete heart failure, then liver failure, she was matched with a donor and received both organs two days after going on a tr...
BISMARCK - Nancy Galligo was one of the lucky ones.
At age 29, after restrictive idiopathic cardiomyopathy put her into complete heart failure, then liver failure, she was matched with a donor and received both organs two days after going on a transplant list.
Galligo, of Bismarck, calls her brief wait in the Rochester, Minn., hospital in April 2004 "amazing" but heartbreaking. While recovering there over three months, she spent time with people who had not yet matched with donors.
"It was sad because people were walking around with pagers, waiting. I had gotten both organs and here people were waiting months, years."
Now North Dakota could be among the first states to approve a law that modernizes organ donation procedures and which is expected to make more organs available.
Under a bill being prepared for the legislative session that gets under way Wednesday, the state would adopt the revised national Uniform Anatomical Gifts Act.
"It's a very good thing because as the years go by, there's an increasing need for organ donations," said Sen. Ralph Kilzer, R-Bismarck, a retired doctor and prime sponsor of the upcoming bill. "People are dying who need organs."
The original act was created in 1968 and soon adopted by all 50 states. But as years passed, state laws began to diverge and medical procedures progressed greatly. A new uniform law created in 1987 was adopted by only 26 states.
Dr. Bhargav Mistry, a transplant surgeon at Fargo's MeritCare, said because the former uniform act is 20 years old and not universally recognized, it's time for an update.
"I think this is very good legislation," he said of the new uniform law.
"It will make it easier for a person to name a person who can make a decision for them."
As with previous versions of the uniform act, the new one says anyone can sign a document agreeing to be an organ donor upon their death, with no witnesses necessary, according to the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, which approved the model law in July. The new version beefs up language protecting the donor's wishes.
It is current practice for organ donation organizations to ask the family to affirm the person's choice to be a donor, according to the National Conference, and that sometimes results in reversal of the donor's decision.
"The new UAGA explicitly takes away from families the ability to amend or revoke donations made by donors during their lifetimes," the National Conference writes.
Conversely, the new act allows someone to sign an irrevocable refusal to donate their organs when they die, blocking others from donating that person's body or parts.
The new law would say that if people don't declare before death that their organs should be donated, others may do so on their behalf. It expands an existing list to include agents acting under a health-care power of attorney, adult grandchildren or a close friend.
Officials with LifeSource, the Upper Midwest Organ Procurement Organization Inc., said North Dakota is ahead of other states because the "donor" designation on driver's licenses is considered a legal commitment.
"Some states don't do that," said Susan Mau Larson, director of public affairs for LifeSource.
South Central District Judge Gail Hagerty, of Bismarck, a member of the national committee that drafted the UAGA, said the new act is "tremendously important to the people of the state."
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