Vail Daily letter: I support organ, tissue donation |

Vail Daily letter: I support organ, tissue donation

My name is Sue Franciose and I am running for Eagle County coroner to make a difference. The requirements for a Colorado County coroner are being age 18, high school diploma, residing in the county and no felony conviction. I was an Eagle County deputy coroner and a certified death investigator during a three-year period. I am a nationally certified forensic nurse and a nationally certified medical investigator Level 5, which is the highest national level. Although a medical background isn’t required to be a coroner, I worked in the medical field for over 20 years. I was a critical care nurse, then returned to school and became a cardiac perfusionist, a six-year program, not affiliated with nursing. I was an anatomy and physiology instructor to medical students and surgical residents (MDs). As a cardiac perfusionist, I operated the heart lung machine during open heart surgery and transplants. I was a member of the harvest, transplant and research teams at the University of Colorado. I also worked for the American Red Cross and personally removed tissue and bones from donors and prepared for recipients.

I have talked a lot about organ/tissue donation during my campaign, and I’d like to clarify some things. I have over 11 years of knowledge and experience working directly with organ/tissue donation/transplants. I know how it works, believe in it, and support the program.

Becoming an organ/tissue donor is a personal choice that doesn’t work for everyone. Sixty-seven percent of Coloradans and over 60 million people in the United States have made that choice. One donor can help up to 100 people. Donor Alliance is the organization that oversees all donations in Colorado and Wyoming.

Many people are not eligible for organ donation for many reasons. The process is very involved and there are many factors. I would need pages to discuss all the information. Please go to to learn more.

Tissue donation is relevant to everyone in Eagle County. Tissue donation needs to occur within 24 hours of death for all tissue, except corneas (12 hours). Many people are eligible with the exception of HIV, Hepatitis or IV drug use. There are deaths where the time of death may have exceeded 24 hours, but most times, the time of death can be approximated or determined and the person is eligible. If an autopsy is required, Donor Alliance will work with the pathologist and coordinate donation to occur before, during or after the autopsy procedure.

When a registered donor dies in the hospital, the hospital staff is required by law to speak directly with the family and contact Donor Alliance to initiate the donation process. If the donor is eligible, the coroner is then contacted for permission to release the deceased to Donor Alliance. This system has worked well for many years. However, most Eagle County deaths occur outside of the hospital. For all the donor deaths occurring outside the hospital, the coroner has the choice to contact Donor Alliance directly and make a non-hospital referral. This program has existed for years and many county coroners participate. Donor Alliance publishes a yearly report listing all the Colorado and Wyoming coroners that participate in the program (, “Resources,” “Documents and downloads”). Eagle County has never been listed. I want to change this. I believe it is important for the coroner to honor and fulfill the wishes of the deceased.

Is it an awkward, inappropriate conversation? Actually it is not. Families are grateful to know that their loved one’s death has the chance to help so many. Donor Alliance has a free four-hour training course, which I have taken, that educates people to have that compassionate and supportive conversation. If elected, I will schedule Donor Alliance to come to Eagle County and provide the free course to all the Eagle County deputy coroners, and any interested first responder groups or community members. Yes, I support this program and believe it is the right thing to do.

I will do the required coroner’s role and will add many new programs that can be incorporated into the office. Please go to to see more and contact me with any questions.

I am not asking you to become an organ/tissue donor. I am asking you to support those of us that are.

Sue Franciose

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