Coroners, or­gan do­na­tion groups de­bate state law

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Me­gan Trim­ble

PHILADEL­PHIA >> State coroners and law­mak­ers are split over pro­posed over­hauls to Penn­syl­va­nia’s anatom­i­cal do­na­tion law more than two decades af­ter the com­mon­wealth led the coun­try in pass­ing leg­is­la­tion to bol­ster or­gan and tis­sue do­na­tion.

Penn­syl­va­nia passed a law in 1994, re­quir­ing hos­pi­tals to de­velop re­fer­rals for de­ceased pa­tients. To­day, more than 8,000 pa­tients await trans­plants in Penn­syl­va­nia. The pro­posal would, in part, re­vamp who can au­tho­rize do­na­tion.

The state Coroners As­so­ci­a­tion has dis­trib­uted let­ters against the law. It says the mea­sure could harm crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions and only lead to more prof­its in a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar in­dus­try.

Bill sup­port­ers, in­clud­ing non-profit do­na­tion group Gift of Life, say do­na­tions and crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions are not mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive. They say the law will align Penn­syl­va­nia with other states and pre­serve coroners’ rights while sav­ing lives.

The back­drop: an out­dated law, and a na­tional trend

Penn­syl­va­nia once had state-of-the-art do­na­tion laws but is now one of three states that have not adopted the new­est ver­sion of the Uni­form Anatom­i­cal Gift Act. The law, among other things, sets a legal frame­work for who can au­tho­rize do­na­tion, as well as refuse mak­ing a gift and pre­vent oth­ers from over­rid­ing that choice af­ter a per­son’s death.

Gift of Life Vice Pres­i­dent of Clin­i­cal Ser­vices Richard Hasz says the re­gional or­ga­ni­za­tion works with about 500 or­gan donors each year and the law will align Penn­syl­va­nia with other states.

Penn­syl­va­nia law­mak­ers have dis­cussed rewrites of the law with do­na­tion groups since 2010, he said.

Where does Penn­syl­va­nia rank in de­nials?

Penn­syl­va­nia leads the na­tion in or­gan do­na­tion re­jec­tions, with coroners block­ing 28 full-body donors since 2014, ac­cord­ing to the Gift of Life. That num­ber, the or­ga­ni­za­tion says, is higher than states with larger over­all pop­u­la­tions.

Charles Kiessling, pres­i­dent of the state Coroners As­so­ci­a­tion, says de­nials rep­re­sent a mi­nus­cule per­cent­age of do­na­tions and are only made when nec­es­sary.

Hasz says: “We’re deal­ing in small things. The num­ber one to us is an im­por­tant one. One life that could be saved is im­por­tant.”

Crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions and do­na­tion

State coro­ner, law en­force­ment and district at­tor­ney abil­ity to refuse do­na­tion ranks chief among dis­agree­ments sur­round­ing the pro­posed law.

Coroners need to re­tain the right to refuse do­na­tions if the or­gans are critical to a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the as­so­ci­a­tion has ar­gued.

Kiessling says: “I’m a donor my­self and cer­tainly want to keep peo­ple alive, but it is our job to de­ter­mine cause and man­ner of death and make sure we can pros­e­cute peo­ple who took those lives.”

But, Hasz said the law will not pre­vent coroners from re­fus­ing par­tial or full do­na­tions. In­stead, it will re­quire them to view the or­gan and give writ­ten rea­son for a do­na­tion de­nial.

“It should be con­sis­tent. It shouldn’t mat­ter where you died or how you died,” Hasz said. “Penn­syl­va­nia’s sys­tem is ar­chaic, not based on science and needs to change.”

Li­cense changes and do­na­tion ed­u­ca­tion

The state Coroners As­so­ci­a­tion and bill back­ers largely agree on link­ing driver’s li­censes to in­for­ma­tion that is critical to or­gan re­cov­ery, in­clud­ing emer­gency con­tacts.

The mea­sure also pro­poses that schools add the topic of or­gan do­na­tion to health cur­ricu­lum. The Coroners As­so­ci­a­tion says chil­dren should not be un­fairly swayed to do­nate. Hasz says ed­u­ca­tion would take a fac­tual ap­proach.

How much time do law­mak­ers have?

Un­able to reach agree­ment with key stake­hold­ers on changes to the bill, state law­mak­ers have tem­po­rar­ily tabled de­bate on the leg­is­la­tion. The leg­is­la­tion can be brought up for a vote when law­mak­ers con­vene again Oct. 17. The Leg­is­la­ture’s two-year ses­sion ends on Nov. 30 and, af­ter the date, all bills die with­out changes to cur­rent law.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.