Letter: Voting to bring choice, compassion back to coroner’s office
I would like to express my concerns with the upcoming election of the Eagle County Coroner. First, I want you to know that this is not my opinion, but my personal experience with the current coroner Kara Bettis. This will address her opinion on organ and tissue donation as well as why she is not allowing family members to make crucial decisions about what funeral home a loved one should be taken to.
Having gone through the loss of three children, I, unfortunately, have become quite familiar with the procedures at the time of death with regard to organ and tissue donation. My first son died of SIDS, and the only thing that he could have donated was his eyes. Being very young at the time of his death, when asked if we wanted to donate his eyes I said no.
In 2002, when my 16-year-old son died in a motor vehicle accident while on his way to homecoming, I was never notified (not even by emergency personnel). A friend called around 9 at night and said that they had heard that my son was in a car accident. I immediately got on the phone with the State Patrol and Vail Valley Medical Center. The hospital confirmed that there was a car accident and that we should come to the hospital. When we arrived at the hospital we were met at the door by Kara Bettis. She led us to a room and proceeded to tell us “your son is dead.” I asked if I could see him and she said “no.”
I insisted that I wanted to see him and she said “no” and that he wasn’t even at the hospital. I then told her that he was an organ and tissue donor, could he donate, she said “no,” that it was not possible. You see, that is only partially true. He was not able to be an organ donor due to the nature of his death. However, he could have been an eye, tissue and bone donor. Kara Bettis simply didn’t care enough about calling Donor Alliance and trying to make that happen. Then when I asked where he was, she said that he would be taken to Leadville. So I ask you why did we have to go to the hospital when my son was not even there? Why weren’t my wishes for my son to be a donor not respected and why was I not given the choice of the funeral home in which he was taken? You see, I had to pay to have him transferred from Leadville to Glenwood Springs because Leadville did not do cremation. To this date, Kara Bettis continues to send those that have died to Leadville, even though Eagle County has a funeral home. As you know the coroner is an elected official and therefore we pay that salary. Don’t you think our tax payer dollars should stay in this county unless the family chooses to take their loved one out of the county?
My third son was hit by a car in Grand Junction and was taken to the hospital where he was put on life support. When the doctor finally told us that he was brain dead and asked if we were familiar with organ donation and if we would like for him to be a donor, we said yes. We were allowed to make that choice with our son and it has been a great healing and comfort to know that he was able to save so many people’s lives.
Kara Bettis states that it is very difficult to ask the family about organ and tissue donation at such a horrible time in their lives. She stated in an Aspen Times article that it wasn’t her role as a coroner. I disagree. I say it is worse to live with knowing that the opportunity was available, but not honored. The coroner should fulfill the wishes of the deceased and their family. It has been 12 years since my one son passed away, and I continue to hurt because of the choices Kara Bettis made for me, instead of taking the time to explain my options and allowing me to make those decisions.
Unfortunately, at some point in all of our lives, we will have to make these difficult decisions for a loved one. So I ask you, don’t you want to be the one to make those decisions, not a coroner?
So I ask you to join me in voting for Sue Franciose for Eagle County Coroner in this November election by bringing compassion and choice back to the coroner’s office. Don’t let what happened to me so many years ago happen to another family in this valley.
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