State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Organ donation process could change under Senate bill

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Nov 20, 2013 12:29 PM

Photo by Mary Wilson / witf

Ronald Lattanzio rallies at the Capitol Tuesday for legislation to streamline the state's organ donation process. Lattanzio said he received a kidney "nine years and 27 days ago."

A state Senate measure to update the 1994 law on organ donation has cleared a committee vote and now heads to the full chamber.

Supporters of the bill to streamline organ donation say it will thin Pennsylvania's transplant waiting list, which now stands at more than 8,000 people. But county coroners have voiced concerns that trying to speed up organ recovery could impede their ability to complete death investigations.

On this point, Bruce Edwards offered a unique perspective at a Tuesday rally with people supporting the legislation. Edwards, now retired, worked as a Pennsylvania state trooper for more than 20 years.

"For four and a half years I was a corporal in charge of a crime unit at Reading," he said. And Edwards has encountered organ donation in a couple ways: once, 25 years ago, when he received a cornea transplant, and again, nearly six years ago, when he donated his daughter's organs after she was killed in a car accident.

Edwards understands coroners and law enforcement officers' concerns about the bill.

"We owe it to the victims and the victims' family whenever there's a death investigation," he said. "And I went over and over the legislation and I would not be standing here in support of it if this legislation in any way interfered with the successful conclusion of any type of a death investigation."

The measure was amended before it was approved by a Senate committee. Its sponsor, Sen. Steward Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) said he thinks the changes addresses coroners' concerns.

Susan Shanaman, with the Pennsylvania State Coroners Association, isn't so sure.

"Coroners are not opposed to organ donation," she wrote in an e-mail. "They do believe that they must fulfill their statutory duties for the people who elected them to office. This may on rare occasions result in the denial of organs in order to try to bring families justice in the wrongful death of their loved one."

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