Group says slow autopsy prevented organ donation

An organ donation group filed a lawsuit against a Michigan coroner after the organs, tissues and eyes of a slain 6-year-old boy were unable to be used for transplant.
AP Wire
Apr 26, 2014

Gift of Life Michigan claims in the lawsuit that Saginaw County medical examiner Dr. Kanu Virani took too long to perform an autopsy on Elijah Dillard's body.

The lawsuit was filed March 18 in Saginaw County Circuit Court and also names Saginaw County as a defendant.

Elijah was burned and beaten in late February in his Saginaw home. He died March 1, but his body was kept on a ventilator after Mio Campbell gave permission for her son's organs to be donated.

Campbell is charged with child abuse. Elijah's father, Aki Dillard, is charged with murder in the case.

Police investigating the slaying objected to the organ donation and got a court order that stopped the process until an autopsy was completed, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit accuses Virani of not performing the autopsy in a timely manner that would have kept the boy's organs viable for transplant.

"Police told me the boy was beaten," Virani told the newspaper. "With this case, I did not know what organs were injured in him. So (it's) important for me to examine the whole body."

Virani said he has approved more than 100 requests for organ donations in the past two decades.

"In this case, the mother gave authorization to donate organs, and that could've destroyed the evidence," he said.

Organ donation does not interfere with autopsies, said Tim Makinen, spokesman for Gift of Life Michigan.

"The medical examiner is invited into organ recovery and can take pictures and do whatever they need to do to complete their investigation," Makinen said. "In this case, organ donation was prevented. Once they took the body and removed it from the ventilator, the organs were no longer viable."

More than 3,300 people in Michigan are awaiting transplants, he added.

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