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Statement in Response to Boulder County Coroner's Letter

The Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank is deeply disturbed by comments made by the Boulder County Coroner, Emma Hall, in a letter to the editor published on June 3, 2014, in the Boulder Daily Camera. While we have no interest in a tit-for-tat exchange with Ms. Hall, we cannot let grossly misleading statements go without pointing to the facts.

Ms. Hall stated that the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank enters into a written agreement each time her office approves an eye donation by a decedent under her jurisdiction. This is patently false. No written agreement between our organizations exists as required by state law and that is the crux of our complaint with her office. Colorado Revised Statute 12-34-123(f) requires the coroner to enter into a written agreement with recovery agencies like the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank and the District Attorney to govern how donations will be handled in cases where the coroner fears the donation may interfere with an investigation. Furthermore, the law mandates that “Decisions regarding the recovery of the part from the decedent shall be made in accordance with the agreement.” While Ms. Hall painstakingly outlines the responsibilities of her office in making determination of whether or not she will allow a donation, she fails to mention this critical point: she is without the agreement under which the law requires her to make those very determinations. If Ms. Hall believes such an agreement exists to which the eye bank and the District Attorney are signatories, then we ask that she produce it. She cannot and, as a result, remains noncompliant with the law.

In an article on May 29, 2014 in the Daily Camera by Charlie Brennan, Ms. Hall stated she refused to sign an agreement because she felt it was “one-sided.”  The proposed agreement put forth by the eye bank was a standard protocol reviewed by our attorney, the District Attorney, the Colorado Coroners Association and the Colorado District Attorney’s Association. It is the very protocol used throughout our two-state service area. Yet, her misgivings about the proposed protocol have done nothing to urge her to negotiate any other agreement. The law does not allow Ms. Hall to refuse to negotiate a written agreement because she feels that the accommodations she must make to maximize donations as the law intended are, in her words, “one-sided.”

Finally, Ms. Hall stated she has requested a meeting with the eye bank to discuss these matters and that her request has gone unanswered. This implies, quite disingenuously, that we have been unresponsive to a long-standing request. The fact is that the request for a meeting came just two weeks ago on May 22, 2014 at 1:00 pm. According to the deputy coroner who made the meeting request, it was the result of a complaint from a family regarding the loss of their loved one's eye donation due to delays by her office. The eye bank responded with proposed dates the following week on May 29 — four business days after her request (Monday, May 26th was Memorial Day). From our first meeting with her in June 2010,  where she refused to negotiate an agreement, up to to this point, Ms. Hall has made no other overtures to address these matters directly to us or through our attorneys.

Our mission is to fulfill the wishes of eye donors to help another overcome blindness through transplantation. We firmly believe we have a duty to report the outcomes of our sight-saving mission to the communities we serve. That includes transparency and honesty about the obstacles we face. Under the law, the coroner should not be an obstacle to the successful donation and transplantation of needed organs and tissues the donor so generously gave. In Boulder County, statistics show it is an obstacle and that it is not compliant with the law. The community Ms. Hall serves is one where 75 percent are registered as eye, organ and tissue donors. They deserve complete answers.