Hospitals gain change in organ-donation bill Legislators agree to drop noncompliance penalties

December 18, 1997|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,SUN STAFF

Under pressure from the Maryland Hospital Association, legislators agreed yesterday to remove the chief political obstacle from a bill that many hope will produce a dramatic increase in organ and tissue donations in Maryland.

Modeled on a law in Pennsylvania, the bill seeks to overhaul policies for organ donations statewide. The number of people awaiting transplants in Maryland has jumped from 282 in 1992 to nearly 2,000. Officials hope the bill will produce results similar to those of Pennsylvania's law, which is credited with a 30 percent increase in organ donations.

The Maryland plan would require hospitals to notify organ procurement centers when a patient dies and would allow only specially trained people to contact the next of kin for donations.

At a hearing in Annapolis yesterday, hospital officials objected to penalties for noncompliance and signaled that the issue could become a major sticking point.

"We'd like a fair shot at attempting to comply with the legislation," said Denise Matricciani of the Maryland Hospital Association. "Our members are viewing this language as an indication that you don't believe we're going to do it."

The head of the Washington Regional Transplant Consortium said hospital groups stalled the issue in Virginia last year over a similar clause.

Joe Scott, head of the Lions Eye Bank, said a lack of penalties would make the bill's requirements too easy to ignore. "If you don't have to do it, if you're busy, you're not going to do it," Scott said. "We're desperate. I'm bringing in tissue from out of state when we have the resources right here."

The hospitals prevailed.

"We don't want to lose the bill," said Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, a Baltimore County Democrat who is co-chair of a joint legislative task force on organ and tissue donation. "We want to give them a chance."

As a compromise, legislators called for regular report cards on hospitals' performance. If the bill passes in the coming session and reports show that hospitals are not complying, they will revisit the issue, legislators said.

Little other opposition to the bill has surfaced, and legislators said they expect the bill to move smoothly to approval.

The task force also inserted a provision that would allow drivers to check a box on their license renewal forms allowing the state to collect a $1 contribution that would be used for public education about organ donation.

The legislation will be named for the late Sen. William H. Amoss, a Harford County Democrat who introduced the proposal.

A number of states are promoting similar proposals because of Pennsylvania's success, and Vice President Al Gore announced this week federal initiatives modeled on the ideas.

Pub Date: 12/18/97

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