Washoe County Commission approves tissue donation program

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - The Washoe County Regional Medical Examiner’s Office has gotten approval to launch an in-house tissue donation program beginning early October 2017.

According to Washoe County, approval announced September 26, 2017 includes utilizing a portion of the Medical Examiner’s Office for tissue recovery purposes, an additional full-time employee to help facilitate the program, and an agreement with Nevada Donor Network, the only Nevada-based organ and tissue donation agency. Nevada Donor Network has a track record with other Nevada medical examiners' and coroners' offices.

“This program has been a long time coming in Washoe County,” says Dr. Laura Knight, Washoe County Chief Medical Examiner and Coroner. “The new Medical Examiner facility was designed with tissue donation in mind. This reflects a dedication to provide robust services to our community, as tissue donation can save and improve lives. Additionally giving the gift of life can allow loved ones to bring something positive out of the tragedies that we deal with on a daily basis at the Medical Examiner’s Office.”

The launch of the program includes postmortem tissue donation, which consists of procurement of corneas, skin, bones, and other tissue from the bodies of people who have recently died, with the consent of their families. The tissues can be used for transplantation, with some common applications including restoration of sight through corneal transplant, treatment of life-threatening burns with skin grafts, and surgical repair of musculoskeletal injuries.

The tissue donation agency, Nevada Donor Network, will conduct the consent process, which includes reaching out to families to request donations from their loved ones. Nevadans can also express their wish to donate by registering as donors at the DMV or online.

In addition to the approved tissue donation program, Washoe County commissioners approved the Medical Examiner to work with Renown Regional Medical Center on an autopsy partnership. The partnership will allow Renown pathologists to perform needed hospital-consent autopsies to determine cause of death at the Medical Examiner’s facility.

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