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The Coroner's role: A Colorado Snapshot

The Coroner’s Role in Donation

Coroners fill a vital role in our society. They are responsible for determining the cause and manner of death in certain circumstances. These determinations can affect the criminal prosecutions and safety issues.

Another role is to facilitate eye, organ and tissue donation from donors whose deaths fall under the jurisdiction of the coroner. In both Colorado and Wyoming, the coroner is required to act within certain parameters:

  • Coroners may deny or delay a donation IF he or she feels that recovery of the donated organs or tissues might interfere with determination of a cause of death. In order to minimize that interference, the law says the coroner and recovery agencies must work together.

  • Coroners must enter into an agreement with recovery agencies like the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank to work out a protocol on how cases are handled when the decedent is a donor. The intent is to maximize donations available for transplant without diminishing the work of the coroner is determining a cause or manner of death.

  • In the absence of a written agreement, the coroner must work within specific guidelines.

    • For example, the coroner must be present during the recovery of donated organs and tissues if the recovery agency requests it.

    • The coroner must, whenever possible, make decisions, collect evidence and complete autopsies within time frames that allow for the preservation of donated organs and tissues for transplant.

    • The coroner must provide a written reason for the denial or delay if requested by the recovery agency. The coroner must also make this part of the written record on the case.

In general, when the coroner and the eye bank work together to outline a process in a particular county, the coroner can easily complete his or her work and the donation can proceed with the benefit of helping others see again. Indeed, statistics show that when the law’s requirements are in place, donations happen.

The Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank has a duty to report to the communities we serve regarding our successes, failures and obstacles in completing its mission of fulfilling the wishes of eye donors to help others overcome blindness. The following table shows which counties have signed agreements, which operate under the law without an agreement and the number of donations denied or delayed past the point where a recovery is not possible.

 

 

County

Signed Agreement

Operated without agreement using guidelines in state law

Number of denials/delayed beyond recovery time in 2012

Number of denials/delayed beyond recovery time in 2013

Adams

NO

NO

4

12

Alamosa

Y

NA

0

0

Arapahoe

Y

NA

1

3

Archuleta

Y

NA

0

0

Baca

Y

NA

0

0

Bent

Y

NA

0

0

Boulder

NO

NO

12

16

Chaffee

Y

NA

0

0

Cheyenne

Y

NA

0

0

Clear Creek

Y

NA

0

0

Conejos

Y

NA

0

0

Costilla

Y

NA

0

0

Crowley

Y

NA

0

0

Custer

Y

NA

0

0

Delta

Y

NA

0

0

Denver

Y

NA

3

3

Dolores

Y

NA

0

0

Douglas

Y

NA

0

1

Eagle

Y

NA

0

1

El Paso

NO

YES

0

6

Elbert

Y

NA

0

0

Fremont

Y

NA

0

0

Garfield

Y

NA

0

0

Gilpin

Y

NA

0

1

Grand

Y

NA

0

0

Gunnison

Y

NA

0

0

Hinsdale

Y

NA

0

0

Huerfano

Y

NA

0

0

Jackson

Y

NA

0

0

Jefferson

Y

NA

1

8

Kiowa

Y

NA

0

0

Kit Carson

Y

NA

0

1

Lake

Y

NA

0

0

La Plata

Y

NA

0

3

Larimer

NO

YES

0

2

Las Animas

Y

NA

0

0

Lincoln

Y

NA

0

0

Logan

Y

NA

0

0

Mesa

Y

NA

0

0

Mineral

NO

YES

0

0

Moffat

Y

NA

0

0

Montezuma

Y

NA

0

1

Montrose

Y

NA

0

0

Morgan

Y

NA

0

1

Otero

Y

NA

0

1

Ouray

Y

NA

0

0

Park

Y

NA

0

0

Phillips

NO

YES

0

0

Pitkin

Y

NA

0

0

Prowers

Y

NA

0

1

Pueblo

NO

YES

0

1

Rio Blanco

NO

YES

0

0

Rio Grande

NO

YES

0

0

Routt

Y

NA

0

`0

Saguache

Y

NA

0

0

San Juan

Y

NA

0

0

San Miguel

Y

NA

0

0

Sedgwick

NO

YES

0

1

Summit

Y

NA

0

0

Teller

NO

YES

0

0

Washington

Y

NA

0

0

Weld

NO

YES

0

2

Yuma

Y

NA

0

0

 

 

 

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