Proposed Ohio law would allow people with disabilities to receive a transplant


Three-year-old Ellie Ward looks like any other child her age and acts like one too.

But what you don't know is that this little girl was born with a heart too weak to keep her alive.

"She went into heart failure at 15 days old," says her mother Jackie Ward of Sydney, Ohio.

Doctors told mom that open heart surgery would probably kill her daughter.

Faced with that risk, Ellie's parents learned something when your child is born with a complicated health issue.

"What about a heart transplant? is that a possibility for us? His words were that's not an option," she said.

Ward says her doctor told her because of her daughter's Down syndrome combined with other heart issues Ellie wasn't a good candidate for a transplant. She said she didn't think of it as discriminatory at the time.

She does now, which is why she supports House Bill 332 which would "ensure that individuals with disabilities will not be banned from an organ transplant wait list solely based on their disability."

Because her doctor wouldn't perform the heart surgery Ellie needed, she went out of state where a successful heart surgery was performed. Now, mom says Ellie is thriving.

She hopes her daughter's condition will show doctors that just because their textbooks tell them the odds are against a child like Ellie--sometimes they aren't.

"I would never assume barriers for my daughter and I don't' think they should either," she said.

Transplant centers that participate in Medicare, Medicaid and other federal funding programs are required to use patient selection criteria that result in a fair and non- discriminatory distribution of organs.

Five states - Pennsylvania, Maryland, California, New Jersey, and Massachusetts - have passed similar bipartisan legislation to prevent organ transplant wait list discrimination.