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In Legislature’s upper chamber, Senator Paul Rosino of Oklahoma City secures passage of proposed law to forbid organ transplant discrimination

The City Sentinel Staff Report

OKLAHOMA CITY – In Legislature’s upper chamber, Senator Paul Rosino of Oklahoma City secures passage of proposed law to forbid organ transplant discrimination

The full Senate has given its approval to legislation prohibiting discrimination against a potential organ transplant recipient based solely on the person’s physical or mental disability. 

Sen. Paul Rosino, R-Oklahoma City, said Senate Bill 378, creating Everett’s Law, was requested by Edmond parents Rhys and Neely Gay. Their middle child, Everett, age three, was diagnosed with Down Syndrome shortly after he was born and has a congenital heart defect. 

Everett is healthy after undergoing five surgeries, but along the way, his parents learned that individuals with mental or physical challenges could be denied a life-saving transplant simply on the basis of a disability. Everett’s parents thereafter began advocating for change. 

They reached out to Rosino who serves as vice chair of both the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.

“I was stunned to find out that simply having a diagnosis of Down Syndrome could cause a beautiful child like Everett to be turned down for a transplant,” Sen. Rosino said. “Everett’s Law would prevent this kind of discrimination. About a dozen other states have already passed similar legislation, and another 12 are considering it. I’m honored to carry this bill on behalf of Everett and his family, and I thank my fellow members for their support.”

Under S.B. 378, a health care provider or entity responsible for matching anatomical gift donors and recipients may not, solely based on a qualified individual’s mental or physical disability:

  • Deem the person ineligible to receive an anatomical gift or organ transplant
  • Deny medical or related organ transplantation services
  • Refuse to refer the person to a transplant center or other related specialist for evaluation or organ transplantation
  • Refuse to place a person on an organ transplant waiting list
  • Place a person at a lower position on an organ transplant waiting list
  • Decline to accept insurance coverage for any procedure associated with the receipt of the anatomical gift

The bill prohibits health carriers from:

  • Denying coverage solely on the basis of the disability
  • Denying a patient eligibility or continued eligibility for a health benefit plan to circumvent the requirements of the section
  • Reducing provider reimbursement or providing incentives to induce the provider to provide care in a manner inconsistent with the section
  • Limiting coverage benefits to a patient for services related to organ transplantation

Everett, and his parents were watching from the Senate Gallery when S.B. 378 was approved.

“Everett is healthy now, but we don’t know what the future may bring. Our goal with this legislation is to make sure Oklahomans with disabilities, like our son, have a fair chance,” said Everett’s father, Rhys. “We’re grateful to Senator Rosino for championing this legislation and to the Senate for moving this bill forward.”

The measure now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration. State RepresentativeCarol Bush, R-Tulsa, is the House principal author of S.B. 378.

Oklahoma Sen. Paul Rosino and Rep. Carol Bush. Official Legislative Photos
Everett Gay, held by his father, waves to members of the Oklahoma State Senate last week. Also with him were his mother and his older sister. The family watched as a law protecting persons with physical or mental disabilities from facing discrimination in organ transplant decisions. Oklahoma Senate Provided Photo