Argentina approved the ‘Justina Law’ on Wednesday July 5 which turns all Argentinian citizens over 18 into organ donors unless they specify otherwise.
The law was inspired by the case of Justina Lo Cane, a young girl who was diagnosed with cardiopathy when she was a child. According to El Comercio, with the right medication she was able to live a fairly normal life, but in July 2017 her condition deteriorated and it was clear she needed a heart transplant as soon as possible.
She waited four months for the life-saving surgery, but no hearts became available for the procedure. Justina died on Nov. 22 when she was just 12 years old.
While Justina was waiting for the transplant, her family created a campaign to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation called ‘Multiplícate por siete” (Multiply yourself by seven) which went viral with the hashtag #LaCampañaDeJustina (Justina’s campaign).
“The concept behind the name is that if a person is a donor, your life is multiplied by seven the moment you pass away,” explained the parents.
The emotionally-charged law was passed with a unanimous vote of 202 MPs with no abstentions, and there was a standing ovation and a round of applause as the vote was passed.
Clarin reported that many of the speeches made were very emotive, and Peronist Pablo Kosiner also explained that his motivations for approving the law were personal.
“Sometimes in politics it’s not a good idea to talk about yourself,” he said, reported in Clarin. “But in this case it is for clarification. Those that have lost a child often talk in the present, and this law could also be called the Juan Pablo Law, I lost Juan Pablo in 2011 waiting for a transplant in the Hospital Italiano. I never imagined that the circumstances of my life would bring me to this situation. The challenge of this law is the presumption of donation. He could be there – Kosiner gestured at the gallery – sitting next to Graciela, my wife, next to Paola and Ezequiel.”
Kosiner’s son was 16 years old when he died.
According to an INCUCAI study, 7,727 people in Argentina are waiting for a transplant, a number that rises to 10,500 if corneal transplants are included. However, only 6.41% of the population are organ donors.
Creating a presumed donor law is a move many European countries have made in order to solve the organ donor crisis that affects many countries, but Argentina will be the first South American country to establish the law. It aims to drastically reduce the waiting time for those in dire need of organs and hopes to avoid other avoidable deaths like those of Justina and Juan Pablo.
Justina’s mother Paola was reported in El Comercio as celebrating the approval of the law.
“After an exhausting day, feeling tired, now everything was worth it,” she said. “It’s gratifying, that even with the pain, it was my daughter that started all this. I leave full of happiness because it was what she would have wanted. I know that she hugs me and she tells me ‘I did it, mum.’ It’s a shame that somebody had to die for a society to take notice, but that’s how it is.”