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Legislation to end racial, ethnic discrimination in organ transplants heads to House Floor

A 2021 law made it unlawful to limit a patient’s access to an organ transplant based on physical, sensory, or mental impairment.

Rep. Ruth Richardson (DFL-Mendota Heights) sponsors HF3972, which would add race and ethnicity to that list.

“The organ donation system has been failing patients of color through every phase of the process,” Richardson said. “Racism is ingrained in the algorithms that dictate access to these life-saving treatments.”

She cited statistics on access to kidney transplantation showing that Black patients in general experience a 1.9-to-3.6-year delay in receiving a donated organ compared to white patients.

The House Health Finance and Policy Committee unanimously approved the bill Friday and sent it to the House Floor. There is no Senate companion.

“It just makes me ill to think about this happening,” said committee chair Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester), adding the statistics on transplant discrimination show how stubbornly entrenched systemic racism can be in some areas of medicine.

Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R-Glencoe) asked whether discrimination in access to organ transplants is due to the number of patients on Medicaid or Medicare, which hospitals can lose money treating.

Studies on organ transplantation show this is not the case, Richardson said, because medical researchers control for socioeconomic and other factors.

“Research demonstrates that even when you control for all medical and general health factors including availability of kidneys, Black patients are 25% less likely to be listed for transplants than white patients.”

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