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Thursday, February 17, 2000

Hawaii State Seal

Bill would mandate
organ donation

By Pat Omandam


When Carol Hagiwara's 10-year-old daughter died three years ago, the family donated her cornea and heart valve so others could lead healthier and happier lives.

Legislature 2000 But Hagiwara and other members of the Hawaii Organ Donation Coalition strongly oppose a proposed law that would mandate organ donations from deceased persons unless the family objects.

A Senate bill calling for that is up for decision tomorrow.

The coalition, Hawaii Lions Eye Bank, Hawaii Medical Association, Hawaii Nurses Association and others believe organ donations should continue to be a voluntary decision made by family members, and not by the state.

"As a donor family member, I can tell you, when you are in the (emergency room) and have been told your son or daughter is dead, the last thing you want to hear is that the state has, in its wisdom, mandated there be an organ or tissue donation," Hagiwara said.

While there is a severe shortage of organ and tissue donors in Hawaii, opponents of Senate Bill 2519 believe making it a state law to require an anatomical gift from a deceased person has the potential to hurt organ donations at a time when the number of donors are up from a year ago.

The measure, introduced by Sen. President Norman Mizuguchi (D, Aiea), cites the increased chances of finding a good donor match for minority recipients if ethnic groups are "incorporated" in the organ donation process. Currently, there are not enough people from minority groups who agree to be organ donors.

The bill, as written, requires an anatomical gift from a deceased person unless objected to by family members for religious, ethical or moral reasons. Moreover, the objection must be made in a notarized document submitted within 24 hours of the death.

And to encourage donors, the bill requires donor recipients to pay for the funeral expenses of the donor.

That practice shouldn't be allowed, said Dr. Livingston Wong, director of the Transplant Institute at St. Francis Medical Center.

Wong, in written testimony against the measure, believes families must feel comfortable with organ donations and the bill only adds to the confusion of dying. Wong also feels that organ recipients should not be in contact with a donor's family because of problems that have occurred.

In one case, a wealthy individual who received organs was contacted by the donor family and asked for money. In another case, the mother of a child kidney donor became attached to the child who received the kidney.

Finally, opponents of the bill say a measure state lawmakers passed last year will help increase the number of donors. The new law requires hospitals to notify donor centers of all potential donors. It also allows a donation of $1 for organ donor education as part of a person's vehicle registration.

But those who favor SB 2519 say that is not enough, especially for those who are on kidney dialysis and need kidney transplants.

Dr. Jared G. Sugihara of Nephrology Consultants of Hawaii said the number of kidney transplants in Hawaii in a year is less than 40, while the number of patients who begin kidney dialysis each year is more than 400. The average life span of a dialysis patient is five years.

As such, Hawaii has one of the highest per capita rates of dialysis patients in the nation, and one of the lowest rates of organ donations, said Dr. Jiro Saegusa of Pediatrics Associates Inc.

Saegusa said the only viable solution for a dialysis patient is a kidney transplant.

"This legislation will dramatically increase the number of kidneys and other vital organs that will become available for transplanting," he said.

Get involved

You can track bills, hearings and other Legislature action via:

Bullet The Legislative Reference Bureau's public access room, state Capitol, room 401. Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Phone: 587-0478; fax, 587-0793; TTY, 538-9670.

Neighbor islanders, call toll-free and enter ext. 70478 after the number:

Big Island, 974-4000; Maui,

984-2400; Kauai, 274-3141;

Molokai and Lanai, 468-4644.

Bullet The state's daily Internet listing of hearings:

Bullet The Legislature's automated bill report service: 586-7000.

Bullet The state's general Web page:

Bullet Our Web site:

Legislature Directory
Hawaii Revised Statutes
Legislature Bills

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