Monday, August 20, 2007

From Washington State--presumed consent law

SEATTLE -- If you are one of the 3 million drivers who has an organ donation heart on your license, this [a]ffects you. (me: Grammatical errors in newspapers!!! ARGH!)

Following an exclusive KIRO Team 7 Investigation into how you could get tricked into donating your body to science -- rather than for life-saving transplant -- the state is making changes.

Lawmakers have already drafted a new Anatomical Gift Act. They hope to clarify exactly when researchers can legally get a hold of your corpse for purposes you didn't envision when you signed up as an organ donor.

While lawmakers debate the details, the Department of Licensing has already acted.

Driver's license offices sign up 98 percent of this state's organ transplant donors. It's always been as easy as clicking a computer key.

Too easy, says Nancy Adams.

KIRO Team 7 Investigators uncovered: The King County Medical Examiner's Office harvested body parts from her son, Jesse, without her permission, then traded them for money to a private research lab.

"His entire brain was taken, along with portions of his liver, his pituitary gland, his spleen, blood, spinal cord -- all taken without his permission," Adams said.

Adams sued over the organ-grab, but lost -- at least for now. A judge said coroners can take whatever parts they desire for "research purposes" as long as the deceased has an organ donor heart on their drivers license.

After we told DOL about the outcome of the case, that agency made immediate changes so donors were not confused about what "donation" means.

"We want to make sure people understand that there are other possible outcomes to signing up with us other than a life-saving transplant," said Brad Benfield of the Department of Licensing.

DOL offices will soon be handing out a new, clear concise two-page flier to drivers. It clearly states donors are agreeing to "research projects" -- as well as life-saving organ transplants.

Organ donor Grace Sutherland thinks that's a great idea.

"Most people take it for granted that if they are going to donate their organs, it's to someone living. I think that it's an absolute must that it be explained -- explained to them," Sutherland said.

DOL has also started waiving the $10 fee for removing the heart from your license in case you don't want to be used for research.

Folks can still restrict their organ donation to just live-transplants, but must contact LifeCenter Northwest, the holder of the donor list.

"It's in both of our agencies best interests for people to completely understand what they are signing up for."

I have read the new organ donor legislation that will be put forth in the coming session. It more clearly lays out who gets to make decisions about where your donated body or organs go. The changes also make our state law look a lot more like the federal law.

Yup, sounds like common sense to me. I certainly wouldn't want organs I had donated to be used for scientific purposes unless I said so. Glad they're working this out over there.

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