As an attorney who represents organ procurement agencies and hospitals, I was disturbed by the recent article on the proposed changes to the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act ["New Organ Removal Rules Raise Concerns," CLT, July 17, page 4]. Remarkably, the article does not even mention the current organ donation shortage, which results in thousands of people dying needlessly each year. It merely notes that the revised act’s liberalization of the classes of relations to the decedent that may consent to donation may result in increased litigation, suggesting that hospitals would be well-advised to ignore it. This is mistaken, life-threatening advice.
First, the amount of successful and material litigation related to organ procurement for transplant is immaterial, especially given the huge numbers of such cases. (The specific cases mentioned in the article dealt with donations for research or other such purposes, and appear to have had a for-profit aspect.) Of course, in our litigious society, the less done, the less likely is liability. However, failure to accept appropriate consents in violation of the law may result in a loss of life. The damages in a cause of action against the entity that so failed would be much greater than in an improper consent to donation context. The article simply overweighs the risk of relying on the act’s revised list of those who may consent, and entirely ignores the potential liability for failing to obtain available organs. Even more troubling is the failure to see the issue in its proper context-a matter of life and death-or to suggest the moral issues so plainly presented. The failure to obtain organs when possible is an unconscionable act, and fear of litigation offers no excuse.
Edward S. Kornreich, Esq.
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