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California Joins National Movement to Bring Uniformity to Organ Donation Laws as Governor Schwarzenegger Signs AB 1689

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Oct. 13 signed Assembly Bill 1689, also known as the revised Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA), that is part of a nationwide movement to bring uniformity to state organ donation laws. A bipartisan bill by Speaker Pro Tempore Sally Lieber (D-Mountain View) and heart recipient and Assemblyman Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto), California's revised UAGA brings California donation law up to contemporary medical, legal, and bioethical practices and makes California the 20th state to adopt the law. The law was last revised in 1987.

"Today more than 20,000 Californians are waiting for organ transplants. They, and their families, were counting on Governor Schwarzenegger to sign AB 1689," said Lieber. "It's now time to strengthen and update our ability to donate organs or receive life-saving organ transplants. We're much closer to our goal today thanks to the Governor's action in signing this vital legislation." Three-fourths of those on the growing waiting list are in need of a kidney transplant, and 72% of kidney transplant candidates in California are minorities.

"Medical technology and the willingness to donate organs have greatly advanced since California last revised its organ donation laws. I stand here today as a direct beneficiary of the Registry, California's nurses and doctors, and most importantly, a willing donor," said Berryhill. "I am honored to have been part of this bi-partisan bill with Speaker Pro Tempore Sally Lieber. It is a tragedy that nearly one third of individuals currently on the waiting list will fail to receive their transplant in time. I am hopeful that this bill will facilitate greater and more efficient organ donations within the state and will save lives."

"When it comes to organ donation, uniformity of state laws is an issue of great importance to the nation as well as California," said Bryan Stewart, president of Donate Life California, administrator of the state-authorized organ and tissue donor registry. "The opportunity to donate organs is rare, as only one in 100 deaths is medically feasible for donation. The revised UAGA helps make the best of every single donation opportunity by clarifying legal ambiguities and family dynamics that can cause delay or stand in the way of an individual or family's choice to donate. We thank Assemblywoman Lieber and Assemblyman Berryhill for their leadership in bringing California's existing laws on donation into one standardized, uniform piece of legislation that is consistent with other states."

The revised UAGA has an impact on first-person consent as it applies to state donor registries. Since 1993, more than 40 states have instituted computerized donor registries to record one's personal decision to donate. Like most other states, the Donate Life California Organ & Tissue Donor Registry is a first-person consent registry that allows Californians to make a legally binding decision to be organ and tissue donors upon death, and doesn't require the consent of any other person.

"Donor registries have replaced donor cards as the primary tool for making anatomical gifts," Stewart explained. "The UAGA makes other states' first-person consent registries legally binding in California in the event that an out-of-state designated donor dies in our state." The reciprocal is true in states where the revised UAGA is adopted.

In all cases in which an eligible donor has not registered with Donate Life California, the donation decision falls to the potential donor's closest legal contacts, starting with immediate family members. In the absence of family members, the newly approved UAGA expands the list of individuals who can make this decision to include grandchildren and close friends who exhibited special care and concern for the deceased individual.

The new law also affects the family's donation decision. When an individual does not leave an advance directive, the new UAGA allows majority rule, rather than unanimity, among a class of available family members (such as children) of the decedent to make an anatomical gift decision.

In addition, the revised UAGA maintains ethical standards and continues the prohibition against the same physician being involved in both the treatment of the potential donor and the recovery of organs, while ensuring that the most qualified professionals are involved in the actual recovery of donated organs. The legislation also maintains existing law requiring county coroners to cooperate with organ procurement organizations to maximize the opportunity to recover anatomical gifts for the purpose of transplantation, therapy, or education.

The revised UAGA was drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCSUL). Now in its 115th year, NCCSUL provides states with non-partisan legislation that brings clarity and stability to critical areas of states' statutory law.

Donate Life California is a nonprofit, state-authorized organ and tissue donor registry, administered by California's four nonprofit, federally designated organ procurement organizations, each responsible for facilitating the donation process in the state: California Transplant Donor Network, Golden State Donor Services, Lifesharing and OneLegacy. As a state-authorized public service, the registry assures that all personal information is kept confidential and stored in a secure database, accessible only to authorized organ and tissue recovery personnel.

For more information about the Donate Life California Registry, the process, and how donation saves and improves lives, visit or in Spanish at

Contact: Bryan Stewart, Donate Life California

221 South Figueroa Street, Suite 500

Los Angeles, CA 90012

Phone: 213-229-5650 - Fax: 213-229-5601 - -

SOURCE Donate Life California
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