Nearly 100 coroners and law enforcement officials from across Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama gathered Friday at Georgia Regents University for extended education, but the daylong lectures were only part of a larger picture to raise awareness on the importance of tissue donations.
“We can all learn together and educate on donor programs to coroners,” said Richmond County Chief Deputy Coroner Mark Bowen. “It’s about giving people the opportunity to donate that (wouldn’t otherwise).”
Currently, demand far exceeds supply when it comes to tissue donations, making the tissue banks’ relationship with coroners that much more important, they said.
If a patient dies in a hospital, a tissue bank representative meets with the family of the deceased. Outside of the hospital, the tissue bank relies on coroners to spread the message to families.
According to Tissue Donor Services, a poll revealed 80 percent of Americans are willing to donate tissue and organs after death, but many don’t know the option exists.
Each donation helps 50 to 60 people. In 2012, around 30 donations resulted in 1,500 transplants, according to Carl Eubanks, the director of GRU’s Tissue Donor Services, a hospital-based procurement agency responsible for procurement of transplantable tissues from hospitals in eastern and Southern Georgia and Aiken County. Donations are accepted from newborns, children and adults up to age 90.
Eubanks said he hopes to call on five of the busiest coroners in Georgia and ask them to notify the tissue bank of every death in an effort to increase donations.
The Richmond County Coroner’s Office began working with the tissue bank three years ago to hold an annual Coroner’s Symposium at the medical center.
Since its first year, participation has nearly doubled.
“It’s gaining speed,” Bowen said. “They’re coming from all over the state.”
The symposium is an additional option that does not count into the state’s required 24 hours of training each year.
“You can’t ever get enough training in the field to help families and yourself,” Bowen said.
During Friday’s lectures, professionals spoke on topics including mass transportation deaths and body recovery, recognizing signs of child abuse, and ways to make a difference during tragic times.
Joseph Scott Morgan, who worked for 17 years as a forensic death investigator for law enforcement agencies in Atlanta and New Orleans, led the keynote lecture and discussed his book Blood Beneath My Feet: The Journey of a Southern Death Investigator.