TISSUE BANKS: Assembly Committee Considers Oversight
The California Assembly Health Committee convened yesterday to discuss the need for governmental oversight of the tissue bank industry. Committee Chair Martin Gallegos (D-Baldwin Park) called the meeting in response to reports from the Orange County Register that tissue banks have become a $500 million industry, in which businesses reap profits from cadavers donated by loved ones. Gallegos has proposed giving the state Health Services agency "more power over the banks," including the right to regulate handling and transportation fees. He also wants the department to investigate the industry's disclosure and consent policies and determine "whether patients with a medical necessity should get priority over people who need tissue for elective procedures." But industry officials and researchers voiced concern about government regulation, warning that it could "hinder research and dry up the already shallow pool of tissue donors." Medical researchers also said that "giving the general public too much information" about how bodies are used in research studies "could scare many away" (Weintraub/Quach, Orange Country Register, 5/26). Instead, Phyllis Weber, executive director of the California Transplant Donor Network called for more public education to encourage donorship of organs and tissue. The Assembly approved Gallegos' proposal last week, and it now heads to the state Senate for consideration (Coleman, AP/Contra Costa Times, 5/26).
Action Too Late?
James Forsell, a Tissue Banks International senior vice president, chided lawmakers for allowing the issue to fester in the state Legislature. According to Forsell, he was asked by the state Department of Health Services to join a 20-member panel to write oversight regulations four years ago. He said, "The state has done nothing. The state has a law but there are no regulations to go along with that law." But Paul Kimsey, an assistant deputy director in the state Health Services agency, said the proposals "were not ignored," but have been "passed back and forth between the department's policy wing and its legal staff." Kimsey said the agency has been working on a series of packages that should be ready for public view by the end of the summer (Orange County Register, 5/26).