Father convinced transplant procedure didn’t kill son
MONTROSE ” The father of a suicide victim at the center of an organ donation dispute says he disagrees with the coroner who ruled the death a homicide.
Jon Rardin said he believes his son, William, 31, was dead 15 minutes after shooting himself in the head Sept. 26.
The Montrose County coroner said two hospitals later improperly ruled Rardin brain dead before turning off life support and removing his heart and other organs.
The coroner, Mark Young, said Wednesday he stands by his homicide ruling but doesn’t believe the case should be pursued as a criminal matter. He said state standards on determining death are too vague.
“I am starting to find out that while standards may exist they are not being followed. This needs to be cleared up,” Young said.
Rardin was first taken to Montrose Memorial Hospital and then to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, where surgeons removed the organs.
Dan Prinster, vice president of St. Mary’s, said Young gave the hospital verbal clearance to release the body for organ donation. He said the organs were removed 26 hours later, giving Young adequate time to step in.
Young, however, said he believed Rardin was already dead and that his body was urgently needed for organ transplants when he was contacted by the Donor Alliance of Denver. He said he was shocked to learn it took more than a day before the organs were removed.
Hospital officials have said multiple tests were done to determine Rardin was dead. Sue Dunn, vice president of organ procurement for Donor Alliance, said Wednesday that state law and proper medical procedures were followed.
Montrose County District Attorney Thomas Raynes said he has turned over files in the case to a statewide review committee composed of donor officials, doctors, coroners and district attorneys.
Meanwhile, Rardin’s family said they are concerned they will be billed for thousands of dollars in medical care when they believed organ donation would not cost them a thing.
“We’ve got to fix whatever procedures went awry in order to save other families this extra grief we’re going through,” William Rardin said. “It’s a terrible, terrible thing. If other families run into what we have run into, there won’t be any more organ donors.”
Prinster, the St. Mary’s official, said the hospital will not to bill the family for transport or costs not covered by Donor Alliance. He did not know what portion of the bills would be paid by the alliance.
“If Young’s ruling stands, the family would technically be responsible for the bills up until the organs were harvested,” Prinster said.
Dunn said Wednesday the alliance wouldn’t cover transportation costs because it wasn’t clear in the records whether Montrose doctors had declared Rardin brain dead. She said paying for costs before a donor is dead makes it look like the money is an inducement.
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