Vail Daily letter: Tissue donation is relevant |

Vail Daily letter: Tissue donation is relevant

In response to the Vail Daily Oct. 26 letter “Organ donation a non-issue”:

Robert F. Hickey made national news after receiving a kidney transplant on Oct. 20, 2004. He was on the Donor Alliance kidney transplant list and getting dialysis for close to five years. He used a “for-profit organization,” and received a kidney transplant from a living donor (Robert Smitty from Chattanooga, Tenn.). Dr. Kam, a surgeon I worked with directly for years, performed the procedure. I remember the case clearly. He bypassed the system in place, and has since helped hundreds of others do the same. He saw something that wasn’t working, and has made a difference. I commend his effort.

I agree, organ donation is not and has never been an issue regarding the coroner election. I’d like to clarify and comment on some of the statements that were written. The Forbes Magazine article that was referenced was written in 1999. In the last 15 years, many changes have occurred.

The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network was developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and has a federal contract with the United Network for Organ Sharing to oversee the donation process in the U.S. There are 58 organ procurement organizations that participate in the national program. Donor Alliance is the organization that manages Colorado and Wyoming.

I agree, the U.S. organ transplant system works for those who are fortunate enough to receive an organ. As of yesterday, there are 123,900 people waiting for a transplant. With 79,350 on the active waiting list. Approximately 30,000 organ transplants were done in 2013, with 16,884 done this year from January to July. Even though 67 percent of Coloradans are registered donors and with over 50 million registered donors in the U.S., still an average of 21 people die every day while waiting for a transplant (approximately 7665 per year), as per the OPTN website, because the demand far exceeds the availability of organs.

I worked directly with organ donations/transplants for over 11 years as a cardiac perfusionist. Is the system perfect? No. Could the system be improved? Yes. I’m sorry the system didn’t work for Mr. Hickey. I didn’t make the rules. If people have concerns regarding the current system in place that is regulated by our government, I suggest they make their opinions heard in the proper forum.

Tissue donation is relevant to the coroner election. I have discussed tissue donation (tissue, bone, corneas and heart valves) during my campaign. I worked with the American Red Cross and personally removed these tissues from donors and prepared for recipients. I was paid $50 per recovery with most recoveries taking several hours. I didn’t do it for the money. I did it because it was a program I believed in and supported. After my third cadaver ACL, I appreciate those that have donated.

In response to the statement that “Donor Alliance descends on families in hospitals, emergency rooms and accident sites to coerce, pressure and intimidate them into giving up organs of loved ones for money,” that is simply not true. Donor Alliance is only involved once the hospital, coroner or family contacts them directly.

In Colorado, hospitals are required by law to contact Donor Alliance when a registered donor dies. Most deaths in our county occur outside of the hospital and the coroner has the choice to call Donor Alliance. In the last 12 years, Eagle County has never been listed in the Donor Alliance Annual Report (, resources, documents/downloads) as a participant in the program. I will change this and make sure all registered donors are given the opportunity to donate. Fulfilling the wishes of the deceased is the right thing to do and it is an issue that should be part of the coroner’s role. I’m not asking people to become registered donors, I am asking people to respect and support those of us that are. Please read the article “I support organ, tissue donation” that was printed in the Vail Daily on Oct. 7 for more detailed information regarding this issue, and go to to learn more about this and my other plans for the coroner’s office. Thanks Mr. Hickey for bringing attention to this topic, making a difference in the options available and also benefiting from the donation process. I wish you well.

Sue Franciose

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