Proposed ban on organ transplant discrimination clears the House

    Gracie Nobles, who was born with Down Syndrome and a congenital heart defect, is the namesake of a bill that would ban organ discrimination based on a patient's disability. Rep. Rick Williams, the sponsor, is seen on the left. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder

    A bill that would protect Georgians from being passed over for an organ transplant because of their disability cleared the House Friday.

    The bill – called Gracie’s Law for an 11-month-old Washington County baby with Down syndrome – easily moved through the House without opposition. It now moves to the Senate.

    “This bill prevents any discrimination from anyone for receiving an organ or tissue transplant, irregardless of developmental or physical disability,” said Rep. Rick Williams, a Milledgeville Republican who is the bill’s sponsor.

    Federal law already protects people with intellectual and developmental disabilities from organ discrimination, but a recent study found that they still lack equal access to organ transplants.

    The bill proposed under the Gold Dome seeks to help address that disparity by creating a state-level ban, which would open up state courts for claims of such discrimination. These cases would also have priority status in the courtroom.

    And under the proposal, insurers also could not deny coverage for an organ transplant because of a person’s disability.

    The bill’s namesake, Gracie Nobles, had heart surgery when was three months old. She didn’t need a heart transplant, but the experience left her parents painfully aware that their daughter and others with an intellectual or developmental disability could be vulnerable to biases and assumptions about their quality of life.

    “Praise Jesus! What a great victory!!” Gracie’s mother, Erin Nobles, said Friday in a text exchange after Friday’s vote.

    Jill Nolin
    Jill Nolin has spent nearly 15 years reporting on state and local government in four states, focusing on policy and political stories and tracking public spending. She has spent the last five years chasing stories in the halls of Georgia’s Gold Dome, earning recognition for her work showing the impact of rising opioid addiction on the state’s rural communities. She is a graduate of Troy University.