For Health Care Professionals: Wisconsin's Coroner Notification Requirement

The 2007 Wisconsin Act 106, which codified the 2006 Revised Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, has significantly changed the working relationship between the hospital that refers a patient to the OPO, the coroner in whose jurisdiction an incident occurred and the Organ Procurement Organization.


Previously, a coroner was contacted by the hospital, usually by the RN caring for patient, only when the patient expired and was deemed to be a coroner's case. A provision in the new law requires the OPO to contact the coroner at the time the patient is referred, provided the patient meets the general criteria for a coroner's case.


When the OPO coordinator responds to the initial referral notification, the RN or other staff may be asked where the incident occurred which lead to the hospitalization of the patient. Although that information is sometimes attainable through electronic medical records, if the OPO has access to that hospital's system, often times the referral occurs prior to the posting of such information. You may be wondering why this provision was added to the referral and donation process.


The new law actually is written to facilitate the gifting of organs and to do so by proactively dealing with issues that may pose hurdles. The coroner notification is only one aspect of the Act that addresses the goal of enabling donation. Additionally, the coroner is contacted at the time of brain death and/or family consent to donation. At that time, the OPO and the coroner engage in a collaborative process which allows the coroner to acquire the appropriate information and to be present in the operating room at the time of recovery, if they so choose.


The law is designed to eliminate the possibility of coroner denials. If the OPO coordinator asks about the location incident, that information may not be immediately available. This occurs frequently when a motor vehicle accident is the cause of a patient's injuries and the county where the incident occurred is difficult to determine. In such cases, the OPO will arrange to contact the hospital again within a reasonable time frame in order to make that determination.


When accessible, that information may be gathered from the hospital's electronic records. The benefits of Wisconsin Act 106 far outweigh the additional burden of managing coroner notification at the time of referral. It helps to eliminate many of the issues that arise with respect to coroner's cases and organ donation. It also provides the family of the patient with some degree of solace by preserving the option of organ donation without qualifications.