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Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 13.1 (2003) 51-52

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Congress Considers Incentives for Organ Procurement

Alexander S. Curtis


During the 108th Congressional session, several bills pertaining to ethical incentives for organ donation likely will be introduced. In some cases, they will be similar to bills before the 107th Congress (see Table 1). Bills in both the House of Representatives and the Senate address the establishment and maintenance of donor registries, financial reimbursements for medical and nonmedical expenses incurred by qualifying donors, the presentation of commemorative medals, and tax credits.

A bill entitled "Gift of Life Congressional Medal Act" (introduced last year by Senate majority leader Bill Frist (R-TN) as Senate Bill 325), and its corresponding bill of the same title (passed in the House of Representatives last year as H.R. 708), would establish a congressional commemorative medal honoring "any organ donor, or the family or family member of any organ donor." The medal is to be designed and struck with "suitable emblems, devices, and inscriptions" by the Secretary of the Treasury. The eligible donor or donor's family member would be presented with the medal by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. This bill would establish qualifying donations as those of human kidneys, livers, hearts, lungs, pancreases, or any other organ, but excludes corneas and eyes.

Another bill, introduced by Representative Michael Bilirakis (R-FL) entitled "Organ Donation Improvement Act" (H.R. 624), would award grants or contracts to states, transplant centers, and qualified organ procurement organizations for the purpose of providing travel, subsistence, and incidental nonmedical expenses to individuals who make living donations. In order to receive reimbursement, the donating individuals must reside in states other than the states in which the intended recipients reside and the annual income of those receiving the organs cannot exceed $35,000. The bill also would appropriate $15,000,000 to make grants to states and public and nonprofit entities for the purpose of carrying out studies, public education demonstrations, and outreach activities "designed to increase the number of organ donors within the state." The bill would be effective from time of enactment through 2005. [End Page 51]

Two other bills proposed within the House of Representatives in 2002 called for amendment to the Internal Revenue Code. The "Gift of Life Tax Credit Act (introduced as H.R. 1872 by Representative James Hansen (R-UT)) and the "Help Organ Procurement Expand Act" (introduced as H.R. 2090 by Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ)) present a refundable credit to individuals or to the estates of those who agree either to be living donors or to donate their organs upon death. The "Gift of Life Tax Credit Act" refunds $10,000 to the estates of eligible individuals "for the taxable year which includes the date of the individual's death." The "Help Organ Procurement Expand Act" offers a refund of $2,500 to qualified persons. Donations of kidneys, livers, pancreases, islet cells, lungs, and intestines are accepted, however several conditions restrict permissible donors. The "Gift of Life Tax Credit Act" requires that the legally competent individual's death not be due to a suicide and that the intention to donate was clearly declared. The "Help Organ Procurement Expand Act" prohibits donations from individuals who were killed with physician assistance, died as a result of a suicide, have been indicted or convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor offense, or are actively under criminal investigation for a possible felony offense. The "Help Organ Procurement Expand Act" also restricts procuring organs from unborn children or human fetuses and under circumstances in which the living donor would be subject to "unacceptable levels of medical risk of death or permanent debilitation."


Alexander S. Curtis is a research assistant at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University, Washington, DC. He received his bachelor's degree from Miami University.



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