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Maryland lawmakers approve tax breaks for living organ donors

Maryland lawmakers approve tax breaks for living organ donors (Photo courtesy of Cynthia Lao)

Some think it's a bill that will literally save lives: House Bill 96, approved this week by Maryland lawmakers. The legislation gives living organ donors a tax break.

"I am so proud that the legislature passed this legislation this year. After my own transplant experience, I can tell you first-hand that these operations are debilitating for both the donor and the donee," Speaker Michael Busch told ABC7 in a statement.

Busch sponsored the legislation after receiving a piece of his sister's liver and a lifesaving transplant of his own last year.

The bill is designed to help offset donation expenses by giving an up to $7,500 tax credit to people donating all or part of their liver, kidney, pancreas, intestine, lung, or bone marrow.

Qualified donation expenses include things like travel, lodging or lost wages.

"Anything to encourage people to sign up to donate, I think is a good thing," said living organ donor Cynthia Lao.

Lao donated a kidney to help her ailing father nearly 23 years ago, so her family has firsthand experience with the life-saving benefits of organ donation.

"He lived such a long, healthy life afterwards, and got to see his grandchildren born, went to a few weddings of his kids, and saw graduations," she said. "Had he not gotten a transplant he wouldn't have been able to see any of that or experience any of that."

Lao’s father passed away in 2011, but his death was unrelated to the organ donation. He was 76 years old.

She hopes the new tax breaks for living organ donors will serve as an incentive to get more people to volunteer to be organ donors.

"The fact is, there are demographic groups that are underrepresented in the donation pool, and this might be the little incentive that would help them do that," she said. "For me, the real heroes are the anonymous organ donors, the living donors, because they're donating to someone they don't even know, just out of the pure love of their heart for fellow mankind."

According to the Washington Regional Transplant Community, close to 4,000 people in Maryland are currently on the waitlist for a lifesaving organ transplant.

In Virginia, that number is 2,907 people. In Washington, D.C., there are 339 people on the waitlist. Nationwide, 114,985 people are currently waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant.

To learn more or register to be an organ donor, go to www.beadonor.org. April is National Donate Life Month.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has said he will sign House Bill 96 into law. Once signed, the law will take effect July 1, 2018, and the tax credits would be applied starting with the 2018 tax year.

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