AG, Chief Medical Examiner Adopt New Policy On Organ And Tissue Donations In Medical Examiner Cases

January 28, 2005

Attorney General Steven Rowe and Chief Medical Examiner Margaret Greenwald today announced the adoption of a new policy on organ and tissue donations that will apply to medical examiner cases, which are usually suspicious or unattended deaths. The new policy establishes the standards that must be met by any tissue bank, organ procurement organization, or research organization (collectively, "recovery agencies") before the Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) will recognize it as a recovery agency. Only recognized recovery agencies will be permitted to recover organs or tissues in medical examiner cases.

The new policy:

  • Requires pre-approval of recovery agency consent forms by the medical examiner's office;
  • Requires that recovery agencies asking next-of-kin for organ and tissue donations must be clear and specific about what will be recovered and what purpose it will be used for;
  • Requires audio-recording and witnessing consent that is obtained over the telephone;
  • Requires all consent forms and audio recordings of consents to be maintained by the recovery agency and made available for inspection by the medical examiner's office;
  • Requires filing of a completed consent form with the medical examiner's office before any recovery is permitted to take place;
  • Requires that the fully executed consent form be provided to the next-of-kin within five business days;
  • Requires that additional written material explaining organ or tissue donation be provided to the next-of-kin;
  • Bans per-case or "finder's fee" payments to recovery agency employees or agents involved with obtaining consent for organ or tissue donation;
  • Bans payment from recovery agencies to OCME employees or contractors; and
  • Bans OCME employees or contractors from being involved with obtaining consent for organ or tissue donation.

Chief Medical Examiner Margaret Greenwald said, "We have worked hard over the past several months to develop a policy that supports organ and tissue donations but raises the bar on what constitutes full informed consent and what we will accept as proof of full informed consent." Attorney General Steven Rowe said, "We believe this new poli cy adopts the highest professional and ethical standards for this sensitive work. We hope it will serve as a basis for the administrative rules that cover all organ and tissue donation in Maine."

Greenwald and Rowe expressed appreciation to the Acting Director of the State Bureau of Health, Dr. Lani Graham; State Equal Employment Opportunity Coordinator Laurel Shippee; and officials at the New England Organ Bank for their input during the process of drafting the policy. Greenwald and Rowe plan to work with Graham on a revision of the Bureau of Health's administrative rules regarding consent for anatomical gifts under the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act.