Letters to the Editor: How the L.A. County coroner’s organ donation program benefits countless lives

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A shirt with the “Department of Coroner County of Los Angeles” logo at the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Every year, hundreds of lives are saved through the organ and tissue donation program facilitated by the Los Angeles County medical examiner-coroner. I am disappointed that the L.A. Times’ extensive coverage of this program neglected to highlight the benefits to seriously ill members of our community whose lives are changed by the generosity of those who turn their family’s personal tragedy into a priceless gift of life for someone else.

My department sees hundreds of these cases each year, and I am humbled and inspired that we are able to play a role in this life-saving process. I’d like to share with your readers a few key facts to provide a fuller perspective on the work we do.

  • From 2017-19, about 1,200 organs were donated from individuals who died under medical examiner-coroner jurisdiction, in many cases saving lives and in all transplant cases, significantly improving the lives of the recipients and their loved ones. Authorized approval of the donations is required prior to sign-off by medical experts in my office.
  • Only 5% of the nearly 10,000 cases we investigate annually are donors of tissue and/or organs.
  • Forensic pathologists use many sources of information to determine the cause and manner of death, only one of which is the postmortem examination. Accurately determining the cause and manner of death is our No. 1 priority, and this program does not jeopardize our pathologists’ work.

These basic facts provide significant and important context about Los Angeles County’s organ and tissue program, which benefits countless individuals and families.


Jonathan R. Lucas, M.D., Los Angeles

The writer is chief medical examiner-coroner of Los Angeles County.