Organ Donation Law

Officials at the Life Gift Organ Donation Center say it took a lawsuit to get an east Texas Justice of the Peace to follow state law and allow Life Gift to harvest organs from a young man who died of head injuries. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

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The JP claimed the man's corpse had to remain intact for the investigation. Life Gift Director Sam Holtzman says it was clear that the JP didn't know about the law, so they filed an emergency lawsuit to force him to release the corpse, which he did before the suit could even be heard in court.

"We've already recovered the organs. The Justice of the Peace, after he was fully educated about what the statutes and the law said, he actually rescinded his order and let us take the organs."

And at least three peoples' lives were saved or extended. Holtzman says this wasn't the first time Life Gift has filed suit to get access to organs and it won't be the last. He says he believes the JP was acting in good faith because he didn't know about the organ donor law, but some officials think removing organs will hinder prosecution of a criminal case.

"There has never been a single recorded instance in the United States of that ever happening. So we believe, those of us in the organ donation field believe, that although the fear is there, it's an unfounded fear."

Holtzman says this east Texas incident shows Life Gift and other organ procurement organizations still have work to do in educating the public about organ donation, and in educating public officials about what the organ donation law requires them to do when a family wants to donate their deceased loved one's organs. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.