Gift of Life Michigan has sued Saginaw County and its medical examiner after authorities there prevented the donation of life-saving organs instead of cooperating with Gift of Life, as required by law.
The suit asks the court to order Saginaw officials to comply with a 2005 Michigan law – similar to those in other states – that requires county medical examiners and Gift of Life Michigan to work in tandem so that both death investigations and organ donation can successfully occur.
Both are possible, and both routinely happen in Michigan. In this case, however, there was no cooperation from the medical examiner and the opportunity for potentially life-saving organ donations was lost.
Some points we would like to share:
- Gift of Life has been involved in hundreds of medical examiner (ME) cases over the years and is not aware of a single criminal case that was compromised because that person became an organ donor.
- Gift of Life Michigan works diligently to provide MEs with resources and information they need to conduct their investigations. An open letter to every medical examiner in the state in 2006 detailed a list of a dozen things we are willing to do, including allowing him or her to do a pre-operative physical assessment of the donor, and allow the ME to be present in the operating room to evaluate and biopsy each organ removed. Gift of Life also can arrange for forensic photographs to be taken.
- Medical examiners study damaged or injured organs as evidence during their investigations. Those organs could never be used in a transplant. Gift of Life Michigan would only use the healthy, viable organs to help save lives.
- The Michigan Association of Medical Examiners supports cooperation with organ, tissue and eye procurement organizations, as does the National Association of Medical Examiners.
- More than 3,300 people in Michigan need a life-saving organ transplant and over 121,000 nationwide are on the transplant waiting list. Gift of Life is working to make sure that future opportunities to save their lives are not lost because a person or agency chose not to cooperate as required by law.
- Across the U.S., 18 people die each day waiting for a transplant that never comes. Children die at a rate of four times that of adults because their organs must come from someone of a similar size.
- Gift of Life Michigan is this state’s only federally designated organ recovery organization charged with helping residents and their families save and improve lives through organ and tissue donation. Gift of Life is a nonprofit.
- Of the more than 80,000 deaths occurring each year in this state, just 400 are eligible to become organ donors. That’s because patients must suffer from a traumatic brain injury and be stabilized on a ventilator for organ donation to occur. The opportunities are few.