Pennsylvania became a national model with a 1994 law to facilitate organ donations.Now, some say, the law needs to be updated.
Transplants are in such high demand, and donations are so rare, that when someone is an organ donor and dies, procuring the organ should take priority, say those who work with organ donor programs.
But coroners and law enforcement officials object, saying streamlining the process should not interfere with death investigations.
“We can’t do justice in a case or for a victim if the underlying investigation is incomplete or compromised,” said Dave Freed, Cumberland County district attorney and president of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association.
Lawmakers say they’ve addressed those concerns, ensuring that coroners will have the final say over whether an organ can be taken from a deceased person.
But Freed and others – including victims’ advocates — say the legislation still has problems, with too little consideration for the families and loved ones of someone who is dead or soon will be.
“We can’t overlook the likelihood of trauma to surviving children and other family members as a result of the organ procurement process that may fail to prioritize the needs of survivors,” said like Ellen Kramer of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
There are about 8,500 people on the state’s organ transplant waiting list. Every year, about 1,300 transplants take place in Pennsylvania, while about 400 people on the waiting list die.