Gift of Life reaches agreement with Saginaw County’s new medical examiner

Gift of Life Michigan logo

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Gift of Life Michigan and the Saginaw County medical examiner have signed an agreement that will allow for both criminal investigations and organ, tissue and cornea donations to occur.

The deal mirrors Michigan statute, which requires organ, tissue and eye recovery organizations and medical examiners to work together so that investigations can take place while maintaining the option of donation for potential donors and their families. The contract was signed by Gift of Life CEO Richard Pietroski, Michigan Eye-Bank Executive Director Lisa Langley and Saginaw County Medical Examiner Russell Bush, M.D.

“I cannot praise Saginaw County and Dr. Bush highly enough for working out this agreement,” Pietroski said. “This is a complete ‘win-win.’ The agreement ensures that the medical examiner and donation representatives collaboratively take all steps necessary for organ donation and medical examination. Both are possible and, under Michigan statute, both are required.”

Gift of Life, the state’s federally designated organ and tissue recovery program, has similar agreements with most other counties across Michigan, as required by legislation known as Kyle Ray Horning’s Law.

The pacts require Gift of Life to assist a medical examiner with test results, visual images, biopsies or other information a medical examiner may request to determine the cause of death that the county would otherwise be unable to obtain as part of a standard forensic autopsy. In turn, county medical examiners and their designees must allow for the donation of organs, tissue and corneas when medically suitable. Gift of Life covers any additional medical examiner expenses related to the potential donation.

The Saginaw County agreement effectively ends a legal request Gift of Life had made for the county to collaborate with the organ recovery organization.

In Michigan, more than 3,400 patients need a life-saving organ transplant. Nationwide, over 123,000 people are on the transplant waiting list.

All potential organ donations take place within a hospital, while people who die outside of a hospital would not become a donor for cornea and tissue transplants unless a medical examiner office reports the death to Gift of Life or the Michigan Eye-Bank. The new agreement is also a win for the more than 3.8 million Michigan adults who have signed up in the Michigan Donor Registry, because it will allow their final wishes to be fulfilled.

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EDITOR’S NOTES:

  • Being a donor is now the social norm in Michigan, with more than 50% of adults being registered. Anyone can join the Michigan Organ Donor Registry, regardless of their age or health history, by going to www.giftoflifemichigan.org or calling (800) 482-4881.
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