Yesterday, the Lower House unanimously approved a bill making all Argentine citizens over the age of 18 organ donors unless they formally request otherwise. The law is known as “Ley Justina,” after Justina Lo Cane, a 12 year-old girl who died last November while waiting for a heart transplant. Following the tragic event, her parents began advocating in favor of the law and were instrumental in its passing. Present in the debate, several deputies commended their effort and highlighted the fact that the law will change the lives of many.
The bill now just needs President Mauricio Macri to sign it into a law, as the Senate introduced it in Congress in the first place and – also unanimously – passed it on May 30, National Organ Donor Day.
“Currently, 25 or 35 percent of people waiting for a transplant die before receiving one, and only 10 percent of the people on the waiting list are able to get a transplant,” said Ezequiel Lo Cane, Justina’s father, after the bill was passed in the Upper House. “In our country, the number of organs donated is not enough to cover the needs of the more than 11,000 people on the list, waiting to receive an organ or tissues,” he added.
According to figures from the INCUCAI – the government institute in charge of all matters related to transplants – there are currently 7,736 people awaiting an organ transplant, out of which 250 are children or teenagers. 2,961 are on the list for tissue transplants, 3,000 for cornea ones, and about 30,000 are undergoing dialysis treatment, meaning that a sizable fraction of these people are waiting for a kidney transplant, while for others it’s the only method to replace normal organ functions, as a transplant would be ineffective.
The law modifies its predecessor, which had been passed in 2005 and known as the “Presumptive Donor law.” Deputy Gabriela Burgos explained the difference between the two during a passage of yesterday’s session. “Currently, to be a donor, people must manifest their will to donate their organs. If a person dies and has not manifested his or her will, their family members will be asked if they knew [their preference], so they would decide [on behalf of the deceased] whether to donate the organs or not.”
She went on to clarify that with this law, those who don’t want to be donors will be able to establish as such by going to the INCUCAI offices, signing a form at national courts, at the civil registry’s offices, or any federal police station or by sending a legal document to the state through the Argentine Post Office (Correo Argentino) free of charge.
“This law will change the paradigm, as everyone will become donors and be able to prevent a death for the inability to receive an organ or tissue,” Burgos added. Both donors and those who refuse to will be protected by their rights to privacy and confidentiality.