INTRODUCTION OF THE BILL

Mr. Speaker, I speak today on a very close subject to my heart, House Resolution 6950, a bill to establish the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Gift of Life Medal for organ donors and the family of organ donors. Congresswoman Tubbs Jones was a rare breed of person who not only talked the talk, but walked the walk.

Tragedy struck Congress a few weeks ago when Congresswoman Tubbs Jones was taken from us. This brought attention to an issue of vital importance to her and the Nation. Organ transplantation is the greatest gift a person can give. While a majority of them happen while both the donor and the recipient are alive, a large number happen after death. Unfortunately these organs, such as the heart, lung, liver, and kidney, among others, are very hard to come by. In the Congresswoman’s home State, only 53 percent of the population was a registered organ donor. This is a good start but we must go further.

When a loved one dies, it is never a happy moment; experiences like this always bring sadness and sorrow. When that loved one’s death can serve as a beacon of hope for another, it does not lessen the sadness; it allows the family to have a good, if small, memory of the loss of their loved one. When Congresswoman Tubbs Jones passed away, we were all deeply saddened but I think I can speak for more than a few of my fellow Members of Congress when I express the joy and pride I felt when I learned that after years of advocating for organ transplantation, Congresswoman Tubbs Jones left all of her vital organs to those in need.

Organ transplantation needs to increase in this country. With currently over 100,000 people on the transplant list waiting for organs, we can not afford to wait to act any longer. Currently, African Americans make up about 12 percent of the Nation’s population and about 12 percent of the patients who donate. However, of all the patients requiring a transplant, 23 percent of them are African American. This disparity is a growing epidemic and must be resolved.

This bill will do three wonderful things and help the cause that the Congresswoman fought for in all her years serving Ohio. One, it will honor the life of an unwavering advocate of transplant. Naming the medal after her will show all those who come later, that this was a woman deep with passion about this important issue. It will shine a light on a life that helped shine a light on others.

Second, this bill will honor those, who like the Congresswoman, have showed their true patriotism to their fellow man or woman and shared with them the greatest gift. These medals are a way that the Federal Government, on behalf of its people, to begin to thank Americans who commit themselves to being organ donors.

Lastly this bill will help raise awareness for minority health issues. It was found that African Americans make up a disproportional number of patients requiring transplants and that they wait, on average, longer to receive an organ. When they do finally receive this opportunity, they are sicker and the success rate is not what it could be. We can, and must, do more.

Mr. Speaker, we can do something to help the millions of men and women around the world waiting for organ transplants. We should also move quickly to honor those who have already given the greatest gift there is. As Albert Einstein once said, “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile” and no one exemplified this better than Stephanie Tubbs Jones. I urge my colleagues to pass this bill to honor her.
Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX)

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