Boulder County Coroner Emma Hall admitted that reaching an agreement with the Rocky Mountain Lyons Eye Bank had been "difficult."
Boulder County Coroner Emma Hall admitted that reaching an agreement with the Rocky Mountain Lyons Eye Bank had been "difficult." (RJ Sangosti / THE DENVER POST)

Boulder County Coroner Emma Hall has reached an agreement with the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank on donor protocol, alleviating a previous point of contention that reportedly led to increased donor denials and the eye bank calling out Hall during her recent reelection campaign.

The Aurora-based Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank — which serves Colorado and Wyoming — posted a release to its website indicating it had reached an agreement with Hall.

While the release does not go into the specifics of the agreement, the eye bank did say it would "increase the number of eye donations available for transplant from eye donors in Boulder County."

"Donation has become a community standard in Boulder County," Robert Austin, a spokesman for the eye bank, said in a statement. "This protocol will allow death investigations and sight-restorative transplants to be carried out together more often. This is exactly the kind of cooperation the law calls for."

Colorado law contains a provision that the coroner, the local district attorney and procurement organizations "shall" enter into an agreement establishing "protocols and procedures" governing relations between them in cases where donations could interfere with cause or manner of death investigations or evidence in a case.

Hall said she had been trying to reach an agreement with the eye bank for a few years but that previous agreements were "one-sided."

"We've been going back and forth for a couple of years," Hall said. "But our priority is to have good working relationships with every agency. This one was a little bit more difficult. But it was also really important for both agencies that their needs were both met in the agreement."

In May Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank endorsed Hall's primary election opponent, Deron Dempsey, as the eye bank claimed that coroner denials or restrictions on donations have climbed 800 percent under Hall.

Austin said in Boulder County there were 16 cases in 2013 and 12 in 2012 in which donations of eye tissues were denied by the coroner or delayed to the point where the eye tissue was not usable.

Austin said that under Hall's predecessor there was just one such case in 2010 and one in 2009.

The incumbent Hall went on to defeat Dempsey in June's Boulder County primary election.

Hall said the new agreement was adapted from the basic pact the eye bank uses for coroner's offices, to fit how she runs her office.

"I think it's an agreement we've come to that outlines their protocols and step-by-step actions and does the same with our office as well," Hall said. "Now it's really just a matter of making sure protocol is followed on both ends."

The eye bank said Boulder County has a 70 percent donor registration rate, and that a procedure in place to ensure timely donations is especially important in the case of eye tissue."

"Tear production stops at the time of death," Austin said in a statement. "And so the cornea can dry out and die very quickly in Colorado's arid climate. Time is our worst enemy."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Mitchell Byars at 303-473-1329 or byarsm@dailycamera.com