With a seriously ill patient waiting for a new liver, the Legislature took the extraordinary action Friday of having both houses — within an hour — approve a bill that would allow HIV-positive people to donate organs to others who are HIV-positive.
The Assembly and Senate acted on the measure after San Francisco surgeon Peter G. Stock told lawmakers he has two HIV-positive patients needing liver transplants, including one who has identified a donor. However, state law makes it illegal for HIV-positive people to donate organs.
“I am deeply concerned for these patients because their health is failing, and I am concerned that, by the time the Legislature is able to act in the ordinary course, the patients will be unable to receive a transplant due to deterioration or unavailablity of a donor,” wrote Stock, professor of surgery at the UC San Francisco Medical Center.
Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) introduced SB 1408, which he said could prolong the life of seriously ill patients.
“Right now there is a felony associated with that donation,” Allen told his colleagues on the Senate floor. “We can save a life this month.”
He said 22 Americans die every day waiting for an organ transplant. “Let’s take care of this stigma. Let’s take care of this injustice,” he said.
With a life on the line, the case drew the involvement of state Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris, who supported the change in the law. Harris wrote to lawmakers that they should “quickly remove these outdated criminal penalties and permit Dr. Stock and others to perform these groundbreaking and life-saving surgeries.”
Gov. Jerry Brown also weighed in on the measure, saying it would get his full support.
“This is a life-saving matter that aligns California with federal law, and the governor will sign this bill as soon as it arrives,” said Deborah Hoffman, a spokeswoman for Brown.