Organ Donation Tops New HHS Secretary’s Agenda
During an address to HHS employees Friday, new Secretary Tommy Thompson vowed to launch a national campaign to boost organ donation
-- an issue "very close to [his] heart" -- in his first 100 days at the helm, the AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. Thompson promised a "national campaign to raise awareness of organ donation" to help the more than 70,000 individuals waiting for a transplant, pledging to "do more to recognize families who donate organs of a loved one," although he offered no specific details on a plan. Thompson also "hinted" about a possible shift in organ distribution policy, but said after the address, "I'm not at this point in time going to change anything" (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/3). As governor of Wisconsin, Thompson fought to stop HHS' efforts to eliminate geographical restrictions on organ distribution, culminating in a failed lawsuit against the department. Under the current system, patients waiting for transplants in the same area as donors receive organs first, regardless of whether sicker patients elsewhere in the nation need the organs more desperately. If no local matches exist, officials send the organs to specified regions, and then nationwide (California Healthline, 1/3).
In addition to his promise to boost organ donation, Thompson pledged to place patients' rights "at the top of his agenda" and to "quickly" craft legislation that Congress would pass, although he provided no specific details. "We will reach out to Congress, and in the next few weeks sit down and craft a patients' bill of rights that's going to be able to be passed in the Congress," he said(AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/3). Thompson also vowed to "modernize Medicare" so it is responsive, effective and financially sound for today's seniors and for tomorrow's" and to provide a prescription drug benefit for seniors and the disabled (Thompson speech text, 2/2). In addition, Thompson expressed his support for several current HHS initiatives, including efforts to reduce racial disparities in health care and antismoking campaigns. He said that he would support efforts to find a cure for HIV/AIDS and review federal policy on embryonic stem cell research(AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/3). Thompson said his agenda also includes providing health coverage for the uninsured, improving women's health and ensuring food and drug safety for Americans (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 2/3).