By Abrigul Lutfalieva

Pennsylvania legislators are currently considering two organ-transplant bills. If passed, Senate Bill 850 and House Bill 30 (which are basically identical according to their supporters) are expected to increase the number of organ donors. But a (hopefully unexpected) side-effect is that it might be “easier for murderers to avoid detection and prosecution.”

Currently, there are 121,000 people on the national waitlist for organ transplants. Generally, laws that stand to increase the supply of organs receive broad support; law enforcement officials, however, are raising concerns about sections of the proposed Pennsylvania bills that would interfere with the work of coroners and medical examiners and make it more difficult to convict, perhaps even charge, suspected murderers.

Sections of these bills grant ownership of the deceased organ donors’ bodies to two organ procurement organizations: the Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE) and Gift of Life (GOL).

Currently, coroners and medical examiners are required to examine violent deaths (homicides and suicides), suspicious deaths, sudden and unexpected deaths, and deaths without a doctor in attendance; following a complete examination, the bodies may subsequently turned over to CORE and GOL. If enacted, these bills would reverse this order, and bodies would be sent to organ procurement organizations prior to a workup by coroners and medical examiners.

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