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Measure Named After N.J. Boy Who Died After Donor Could Not Be Found

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle to promote bone marrow and peripheral blood stem cell donations – particularly to help boost minority participation – was released Thursday by an Assembly panel.

The measure (A-2168) is named Jaden’s Law in honor of Jaden Hilton, a 3-year-old New Jersey boy who died of leukemia on Jan. 29, 2007. Jaden needed a bone marrow transplant to survive, but neither his parents, his brother nor any of his relatives were a match. Due to the lack of other donors within the bone marrow pool, another match couldn’t be found.

“We’ve lost too many young lives to diseases that could have been cured,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Hopefully with this bill we will take a step toward avoiding more tragedies and ensuring bright young children like Jaden are with us for years to come.”

Under the bill, the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services would prepare an online brochure for display on the website of the Department of Health and Senior Services, based upon information derived from the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP).

The brochure may be downloaded by physicians to inform patients of the option to become a bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell donor. Vainieri Huttle noted statistics that show of the 8 million people who have registered as potential donors with the National Marrow Donor Program, just 600,000 – 7 percent – are African-American, limiting an African-American’s chance of being matched with a donor for transplant. Bone marrow is used to treat leukemia, lymphoma and other life-threatening diseases. It is rich in blood-producing cells that can replace those lost to disease and chemotherapy.

Although the procedure is generally called a stem cell transplant, it’s also known as a bone marrow transplant or an umbilical cord blood transplant. Donor and recipient marrow must be a close match for a successful transplant, which means patients are more likely to find a match within their own racial or ethnic background. About 30 percent of patients who need transplants have a relative who matched their marrow type. The other 70 percent need unrelated donors, but with so few African-Americans on the donor list, they are less likely than Caucasians to get the transplant that could cure them.

“With this brochure and with doctor’s promoting the cause, we can quite simply save lives with a few simple and easy steps,” Vainieri Huttle said. “That’s a positive step forward and one we can all embrace.”

The bill was released 10-0 by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee. It now goes to the Assembly Speaker, who decides if and when to post it for a floor vote.

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