Letters: Federal, state laws should help living donors
I am a two-time kidney transplant recipient. I was 8 years old when my kidneys failed, and I received my first transplant at 10 from a deceased donor.
At 28, I needed another kidney transplant. I spent two years looking for a living kidney donor and created a blog to tell my story. I knew that if I were to find a living kidney donor, I would increase my chances of living a healthier, longer life because of the kidney's longer average lifespan.
I also knew that finding a living donor would save not only my life but another, as well: a person on the waiting list who could receive a kidney from a deceased donor. With a living donor, I would be one less person waiting. Nationwide, 97,000 people are on the kidney wait list.
Unfortunately, I never found a living donor, but I was able to get off the list through the generosity of another deceased donor. Last year, only 22,000 kidney transplants were performed, and less than a third — 6,641 — were from living donors.
Recently, I traveled to Washington, D.C., in recognition of National Donate Life Month, to advocate with the American Kidney Fund for legislation that can encourage living organ donation federally and in Oregon.
Passing federal and state legislation would guarantee job-protected leave to living organ donors and prevent life, disability and long-term care insurers from charging higher rates to living donors or denying them coverage altogether.
Together with the 700 Oregonians waiting for kidney transplants, I urge you to ask your state representatives to vote for SB 796 and your members of Congress to support the passage of the lifesaving Living Donor Protection Act of 2019 to remove barriers to living donation and get more people off the transplant waiting list.
Lawmakers shouldn't let vapers off tax hook
It has repeatedly been shown that there is a direct relationship between the cost of cigarettes and the number of teens who smoke. However, there currently are no state or federal taxes on e-cigarettes.
Unfortunately, Juul and other brands have become the entry-level tobacco of choice for most teens and have rapidly replaced combustible cigarettes as their introduction to lifelong nicotine addiction.
Oregon legislators are considering a $2-a-pack tax increase on combustible cigarettes. Taxing e-cigarettes at a level at least equivalent to the tax on combustible cigarettes and basing the tax on the milligrams of nicotine inhaled would have a significant effect on reducing the number of teens who start this unhealthy habit.
As a family physician, I urge our legislators to consider such a tax as a way of serving the dual purposes of increasing tax revenue while at the same time decreasing the number of new teen smokers.
Dr. George Waldmann
Youth sentencing reform needed for rehabilitation
I have been an Oregon Youth Authority volunteer for several years now and have seen how youths can change over time when they have the support of people who believe in them.
I also have seen youths transferred into the adult system where they lose contact with the volunteers and services they have built relationships with through OYA, and I can only imagine what that might do to all the progress they have made.
Passing SB 1008 will change that and allow for a more individual response to youths in the juvenile justice system by giving them a "second look" halfway through their sentences and allow for a judge to pursue keeping them in the youth system where they are likely to be more successfully rehabilitated.
Finally, SB 1008 would eliminate life without parole sentences for youths in Oregon by establishing a process to ensure that anyone convicted of a crime when they are under 18 receives a chance for parole after 15 years of incarceration.
SB 1008 will take the whole person into account rather than pushing youths through a system that is setting them up for failure.
Incarcerated youths are in a place where they have the optimum opportunity for rehabilitation and healing to become productive adults. I am with the majority of Oregonians in supporting youth justice reform and request that lawmakers make passing SB 1008 a top priority.
Let judges decide sentence for young offenders
As a native Oregonian, support of Senate Bill 1008 is imperative to the progress of youths today.
An egregious number of youths are unfairly impacted by Measure 11 — passed in 1994 ("the tough on crime" era), which gives prosecutors the ability to try youths as adults for certain crimes.
The measure has not demonstrated (it keeps) Oregon any safer and has actually (been) shown to increase the likelihood an individual would commit crimes again by over 30% once released when convicted under this measure.
Carrying an adult criminal conviction hinders the opportunity for employment, housing and other crucial aspects of livelihood in the future. Rehabilitation and education have proven to be far more effective, positive and impactful methods than incarceration.
As of now, judges don't have the ability to make decisions on youth placement for prosecutions under Measure 11. SB 1008 would give judges back the capability to decide on placement options.
Given that judges are closer to understanding the context of the prosecution at that point and it's not a "one-size-fits-all," they should be given the power to decide accordingly.
All signs and statistics show we're in need of youth justice reform. Let's set up our youths for success.
Let's demonstrate our compassion for immigrants
Since federal agencies can't properly care for desperate people intercepted at our southern border, it's time for all compassionate Oregonians to help alleviate their plight.
Oregon is a sanctuary state, so if some of them are brought here while their cases are being adjudicated, they can rest assured they'll not be deported. In my neighborhood, several homes have signs in their yards stating that "Immigrants and Refugees are Welcome."
These compassionate people might sponsor one or more unaccompanied children. They'd be with a loving family, they'd be safe and could attend school and learn English.
The state, counties and cities should expand subsidized housing for immigrant families, provide essential social services and help them find employment. This would enable immigrants to become independent and successful citizens when their asylum claims are eventually approved.
Cultural and racial diversity makes America stronger and more just, so let's show America and the world how compassionate and generous Oregonians are.
Yes, these measures would cost some money, but please remember, the quality of mercy is never strained.