Gift of Life looks forward to working with new Saginaw County medical examiner to assist investigations and save lives

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Gift of Life Michigan is withdrawing a legal action against the former Saginaw County medical examiner, now that a new chief medical examiner has been appointed.

Gift of Life had asked the court to order then-medical examiner Dr. Kanu Virani to comply with Michigan law, which ensures that both criminal investigations and organ donations can occur. With his resignation, the court action is no longer necessary.

“We look forward to working with Dr. Russell Bush, the new medical examiner for Saginaw County,” said Richard Pietroski, CEO of Gift of Life Michigan, the state’s federally designated organ and tissue recovery program. “Like everyone else, we want to see criminal cases successfully prosecuted, and we want to see lives saved through organ donation. Both can and do occur routinely throughout Michigan and the nation.”

Gift of Life will continue to urge Saginaw County officials to respond to a similar legal request for all county officials to follow Kyle Ray Horning’s Law (Michigan Statute 52.209). The organization seeks no monetary damages. The law spells out requirements for county medical examiners and Gift of Life to work together.

“Collaboration can be a win-win situation for everyone,” Pietroski said. “Organ evaluation testing not only determines whether organs are suitable for transplant, but the results can be made available to the medical examiner as evidence for criminal prosecution that cannot be obtained as part of an autopsy.”

Both the state and national medical examiner associations support the kind of collaboration outlined in the Michigan law.

“This is about making sure that the medical examiner and organ donation representatives collaboratively take all steps necessary for organ donation and medical examination,” Pietroski said. “There’s no need to choose one over the other because both are possible. In fact, under the law, both are required.”

In Michigan, more than 3,300 patients need a life-saving organ transplant, including 27 in Saginaw County, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Nationwide, over 122,000 people are on the transplant waiting list.

Annually, fewer than 400 patient deaths statewide qualify to give lifesaving organ transplants. While all potential organ donations take place within a hospital, the majority of people who die outside of a hospital will not become a donor for cornea and tissue transplants unless a medical examiner office reports the donor to Gift of Life.

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