Tuesday, April 18, 2000

Tristate cadavers not used for profit


Donor officials say families consulted

BY Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Local organ donor program officials say that, despite reports elsewhere of cadavers being used without family knowledge for commercial purposes it's not happening in the Tristate.

        Officials at LifeCenter and the Ohio Valley Tissue and Skin Center said they require consent from relatives and that donated organs and tissue are used only for transplantation or family-approved medical research.

        Using and profiting from donated human organs and tissue “is a practice that does not happen here,” said Dr. Richard Kagan, medical director of the Ohio Valley Tissue and Skin Center.

        “While it doesn't happen here, I wish I could say it doesn't happen anywhere; but it does,” said Dr. Kagan, who is also president of the American Association of Tissue Banks.

        This week a newspaper series in the Orange County Register reported that American businesses make hundreds of millions of dollars selling products crafted from donated human bodies, even though it is illegal to profit from cadaver parts.

        According to the series, about 20,000 dead Americans became part of this manufacturing cycle in 1999, four times the number of bodies used for vital-organ transplants. The tissue trade now generates about $500 million annually.

        But Dr. Kagan said “that kind of stuff is not happening here.”

        David Lewis, executive director of the LifeCenter, a local organ donation organization, agreed.

        Mr. Lewis said organs and tissue donated with family permission from Tristate cadavers are not part of this growing medical industry.

        “We would not go down that road. We abide by the highest ethical, moral and legal standards,” said Mr. Lewis.

        Nationally, there are 66,500 individuals on waiting lists for organ transplants.

        On average, 13 people on the national waiting list die each day. Both Dr. Kagan and Mr. Lewis said reports of organ donation practices outside the Tristate will likely make their local recruitment of organ donors even more difficult.

        “A lot of people look for an excuse not to donate,” said Dr. Kagan.

        Locally a long-running controversy over organ use moved closer to ending last month.

        It stemmed from a case begun more than a decade ago when a Cincinnati woman — Deborah S. Brotherton — accused the Hamilton County coroner of removing her dead husband's corneas for transplant purposes against her objections.

        Last month U.S. District Judge S. Arthur Spiegel said that “there can be no debate” that the coroner violated the survivors' right to due process and ruled that the county was liable.

        Judge Spiegel certified her suit as a class action involving an estimated 400 families with similar complaints. They can claim damages if corneas were taken over their objections or they would have objected if they had been asked.

        “The remaining issues ... will be the identity of those class members who did not consent to removal of the corneas and the damages to be awarded,” Judge Spiegel wrote.

        Then jurors will decide how much the county must pay, he said.

        This month a bill was proposed by state Rep. Greg Jolivette, R-Hamilton, that seeks to increase organ donations in Ohio by making the Ohio driver's license organ donation designation a legal document, overriding possible opposition of spouses or parents. It also would open driver's license records to let a private company contact people who are not donors and encourage them to reconsider.

       



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