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Funeral Professionals FAQ

Here are some frequently asked questions about the eye bank and the eye donation process.

1. Who should I contact with questions?

For all donations in progress, call the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank at 800-444-7479, option #1. For all other inquiries, call the Public & Professional Relations Department. In Colorado, 800-444-7479, choose option #4.  In Wyoming, call 800-336-6192.

2. Is the eye bank a part of Donor Alliance?

No. While we do work very closely with Donor Alliance, the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank is a separate, community-based, nonprofit organization.

3. The decedent is already at my facility, and the family wants to donate. Can eye donation happen under these circumstances?

Possibly. The first step is to call RMLEB and speak with a donation coordinator. This will help us determine if the decedent is medically eligible to donate. Finally, we must work within some time constraints. Generally speaking, the eye recovery must be completed within 12 hours from the time of death.

4. Why doesn't the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank still use funeral service personnel to perform eye recoveries?

There are two main reasons RMLEB no longer employs funeral service professionals as field recovery technicians:

For some families, and even competing funeral homes, there can be an appearance of a conflict of interest. Keeping the functions of the eye bank and funeral homes separate eliminates this possibility.

More importantly, in 2004 the Food and Drug Administration imposed dramatic and sweeping regulatory obligations on eye banks. Because of the intense medical screening process that must now be completed prior to the recovery of donated eye tissues, the eye bank has changed the job description for field recovery technicians to favor those with more extensive medical backgrounds. This is becoming the standard in eye banking across the country.

5. I'm concerned about the appearance of the decedent after donation, so I don't give families the option of a viewing after eye donation. Why do you tell them they can have an open casket?

The families of eye donors are, in fact, informed that the decision to donate eye tissues for transplantation should not affect their ability to have a viewing or an open casket. In most cases, there are no outward changes to the eyes; and our technicians will inform you when there may be complications.

RMLEB makes every effort to make your jobs easier. RMLEB will institute a new form very soon that will be left with the body after each eye recovery. This form explains what was recovered and how the donor appeared pre- and post-recovery. The use of eye caps is standard in all recoveries performed by the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank.

RMLEB has worked very closely with a mortuary science expert to develop general recommendations for embalming eye donors. If you have specific issues or questions, our experts are available for consultation. Call the Public & Professional Relations Department for details: Colorado 800-444-7479. In Wyoming: 800-336-6192.

6. Why can it take so long for the eye bank to complete the donation process?

Time is our worst enemy, and RMLEB makes every effort to expedite the process because it makes for better transplant outcomes as well as a better experience for the hospital, family and funeral home.

It is important to understand, however, that there are many steps in the donation process. Many of these steps occur before the eye bank is involved. To begin the process, the hospital will call the Donor Information Line to determine if the decedent is eligible to be an eye, organ or tissue donor. This call is federally mandated.

If the decedent is a potential donor, the Donor Information Line will check to see if the decedent already made the decision to donate through the Colorado or Wyoming Donor Registries. If not, then the family is given the option to donate by specially trained health care workers at the hospital.

Because the family is at the core of the process, time must be given by the hospital for them to be notified, perform any bedside rituals, make phone calls and other decisions prior to making a decision about donation. It is only after the decision is made to donate that the eye bank is notified about the donation.

Our case load, proximity of an available technician, the coroner's involvement, the involvement of the tissue or organ bank and many other factors work to determine how quickly the eye bank can complete the recovery.
Generally, eye recovery must be completed within 12 hours of the time of death.

7. Does the eye bank pay funeral homes for any delays in getting the body to my facility because of a donation?

No. State laws put the donation above the rights of all others and require the donation to be complete prior to embalming or release of the body. RMLEB makes every effort to complete the recovery while the body is at the hospital. When this is not possible, or when delays are expected, RMLEB makes every effort to communicate and work with all of those involved, including the hospital, coroner and funeral home.

8: Does the eye bank pay restoration fees for eye donors whose families choose a viewing or open casket? 

No. Work to restore the eyes following a recovery of donated eye tissues should be minimal. Detailed recommendations on the restoration and embalming of eye donors can be found here. If you have specific procedural questions not answered there, you may speak with a mortuary science expert by calling the Public & Professional Relations Department at 800-444-7479. In Wyoming, call 800-336-6192. These recommendations are also available as a laminated poster suitable for the embalming room.

9. Does the eye bank reimburse funeral homes for costs related to after hours access to donors?

Yes, we will pay a resonable fee if they are agreed upon in advance. Laws in both Colorado and Wyoming put the eye bank's rights to carry out the wishes of the donor ahead of all others. This means that no other entity has the right to the donor's body until the donation is complete. This includes the funeral home. Hospitals should not release the body until the donation is complete. That said, we understand there are circumstances where a funeral home must take possession of the body prior to the donation, and we understand that they may have to come in in the middle of the night to give us access.

 10. Why should funeral directors work with RMLEB?

We serve the same families. In order to fulfill the donation and funeral requests of those families, we must work together. Our failure to do that could lead to confusion, delays and an overall unpleasant experience for the families we serve.

Because state laws govern the donation process, cooperating with one another also ensures that we are both working within the law's requirements.

State Laws on Donation: Both Colorado and Wyoming statutes require a donation to be carried out prior to embalming. To do so, the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank and funeral homes must work together. Colorado Statute 12-34-114(h)and Wyoming Statute 35-5-213(h) speak to the rights and duties of procurement agencies like the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank.