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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended April 23, 2000
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Sent on Mormon-News: 22Apr00

Summarized by Rosemary Pollock

LDS Congressman Hansen Suggests Paying $10,000 For Organ Donations
Salt Lake Tribune 19Apr00 N2
By John Heilprin: Salt Lake Tribune

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Utah Rep. Jim Hansen, former chairman of the House Ethics Committee, promoted a bill that he introduced last month that would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. It would allow a "refundable credit" to the family or designated beneficiary of those who donate their organs at death. The bill, sponsored by the 1st District Republican, named the amount of $10,000 for the gift from Uncle Sam. Experts report that this remuneration could cross a shadowy legal line.

"This kind of proposal is actually a good one and has a lot of promise but it needs to be studied very carefully to make sure it doesn't have a negative effect," said Jim Childress, the professor of biomedical ethics at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. "It might end up rewarding those who have resources. But on the other hand, one way you can think about this is as gratitude to the decedent and the family," he said. "You just have to make sure it would not cross the boundary into buying and selling organs, and that's tricky."

Hansen told the story of his colleague, Floyd Spence, R- S.C. House Armed Services Chairman, and how he received his new lungs as part of an organ donation. "We have to heighten the awareness of people in America to this idea [of organ donating]," Hansen said. "Basically, it's a gift for giving a part...If it was one of my own sons, I would be happy to do it."

Hansen's interest grew when his friend, Leon Sorenson, who is the vice-president of the Utah Medical Association, got a liver transplant last month. Operations such as this cost up to $300,000. Sorenson is a neighbor and former legislative aide to Hansen, and served as a bishop in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while Hansen was the Stake President.

John Nelson is a physician who head the 3,000 member Utah Medical Association. He describes Hansen's bill as a step in the right direction. "This is something we all need to be aware of - to live and then give."

"I just can't emphasize enough the importance of thinking carefully and making a decision to donate your organs if at all possible and to make that wish known," Sorenson said. Nationwide there are 62,000 people awaiting new organs. More than 4,000 of those die every year while waiting.


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