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County Directory Assistance Sorry, this page has moved! Please click here to go to the new location. And the source of the claim was a short article in a American Bar Assn. When someone dies unexpectedly, responsibility for determining the cause falls to the coroner, according to California law. County website. But county records show that can be impossible when bones or skin are missing at the time of that exam. In the case of Guimary, Jinde and other Los Angeles deaths, executives at OneLegacy said they had followed the law by obtaining authorization from medical examiners before recovering tissue.
Jonathan Lucas, L. He said that, in the opinion of him and his staff, no criminal investigation or cause-of-death finding had been impeded. Procurements from victims of suspected child abuse and officer-involved homicides must be approved by a senior morgue official. Jonn Flath, 18, who had been a varsity athlete in high school, sat down and died in while working out with cadets in the Air Force ROTC program. Because the teen had signed up to be an organ and tissue donor, the family could not stop the procurement.
His father, Mark Flath of Agua Dulce, said he pleaded with OneLegacy not to take tissues from the body before the coroner had performed an autopsy. The L. County coroner later could not determine why the teen had died. But his lawyer withdrew from the case, Flath said, after learning that state law protects coroners and procurement companies from lawsuits except in cases of extreme wrongdoing.
Vital Records in California
Procurement companies have assured death investigators their cardiac exams are more thorough than what coroners can do on their own. Now, some companies report that a majority of their donors come from those being wheeled into the county morgue.
Although the numbers have risen, the cases still amount to a small fraction of the total coroners investigate each year. In the L. To increase the supply of harvested body parts, the companies have embedded procurement teams inside government morgues across the country. Morgue officials at times give the corporate employees key cards so they can enter at any hour.
In a growing number of counties nationwide, the companies can log into government computer files on the newly deceased, allowing them to swiftly find potential candidates for procurement. In Michigan, a company called Gift of Life said donations of bone and other tissues soared after its foundation gave some coroner offices iPads loaded with special software to record details of a death at the scene, which are transmitted instantly to the company.
For several decades, federal rules have required hospitals to alert procurement companies when anyone dies inside their walls. With the new connections to government morgue computers, the companies also know immediately about deaths outside hospitals — and have contacted families when the body of a loved one is still at the scene, according to written complaints made to supervisors by morgue staff in Los Angeles and Tacoma, Wash.
County coroner investigator, wrote in an internal complaint about OneLegacy after a suicide in The companies say they must move quickly before tissue becomes unusable, and that they train staff to be compassionate. The companies — and many coroners and medical examiners who have partnered with them — say tissues and organs can be procured with no harm to the death investigation when the two sides work closely together.
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Companies say their employees can take photos of the bodies and the harvested organs. The companies also have agreed to quickly alert coroners when they find unexpected injuries or signs of abuse and then document what they find for use by investigators. One result is that many coroners increasingly depend on procurement teams — who have little if any professional training in forensic investigation — to gather crucial evidence, even in possible homicides. In a handbook issued in October , the American Assn.
In Ohio, Lorain County Chief Deputy Coroner Frank Miller said in a deposition that he regularly relies on information from surgical technicians at Lifebanc, a procurement company, to help prepare his autopsy reports. The deposition was taken in a lawsuit filed by the family of year-old Vanessa Webb, who had died unexpectedly.
Death certificates are required by law for multiple purposes.
Miller could not determine why the healthy teen had died. Miller said he was able to do a full autopsy with aid from the procurement companies. County coroner. If there is a potential criminal investigation, families are discouraged from even seeing the body. Neither county would provide a complete list of those deaths. Three other large California counties also refused to provide that information.
Despite the limited review, The Times found more than two dozen cases in which the procurements made it harder to determine the cause of death. In many of those cases, coroners were unable to conclude either why or how the person died. The cases included possible homicides, highway accidents, deaths after surgeries, a drug overdose, a suspected suicide and a death that followed a fight with a police officer. The deceased ranged from homeless people to members of wealthy families, although more were poor than rich.
Most were middle-age or younger. One was a child. In at least five cases, the documents show that companies harvested body parts without reporting what appeared to be a death from a crime, an accident or suicide to coroner officials. California law requires any person in charge of a body who has knowledge that the death may have been from unnatural causes to immediately alert the coroner. A crematory employee called the coroner nine days after William Paul Kennedy died in to report that the cause might have been an auto accident.
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The coroner found evidence of the crash — multiple rib fractures, as well as bruises on his chest and eyes — even though a procurement team had already taken bones and sections of skin. It is impossible to know how many other suspicious, violent or accidental deaths have not been reported or investigated as companies hurried to procure organs or tissues before they became unusable for transplant.
California Vital Records Indexes
Lucas, the L. Many forensic experts say organs can be donated with no effect on the autopsy when the cause of a homicide is obvious — such as a gunshot to the head. In those cases, the procurement surgery happens away from the fatal wound. But Southern California medical examiners have also approved donating organs in possible homicide cases in which the cause of death is not clear.
Guillermo Valencia, 39, was found lying unconscious in an alleyway in East Los Angeles, blood streaming from a 2-inch gash in the back of his head in His nose was fractured. His left eye was red with blood.
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Even though deputies were investigating whether someone had beaten him to death, OneLegacy got approval from his family to harvest his organs and tissues. In the autopsy report, Louis Pena, a deputy medical examiner, detailed how he found internal injuries but could not tell whether they were caused by violence, an accident or by technicians harvesting organs. That would have cleared the suspicions of foul play. Pena eventually concluded that Valencia died of blunt-force trauma to his head but said he did not know whether it was a homicide, accident or natural death. OneLegacy said the coroner had allowed the donation.
Upon seeing a head wound that had left her unconscious and bruises on her chest, arms and legs, they called police.