Kentucky family fights to change organ donor laws
When you die, you want your wishes followed; but that didn’t happen for 19-year-old Courtney Flear. She was killed in a crash in January near Princeton, Kentucky.
Courtney was an organ and tissue donor, but her parents say her final wishes were never fulfilled and the wording of a current law is to blame.
They say they can’t change what happened to their daughter, but they do have the power to make the situation better for other families.
"She left out home fifteen minutes before we got a phone call that there was an accident," says Gary Flear, Courtney’s dad.
That’s when Gary and Briggett Flear found out their daughter, Courtney, had died.
"The last thing we were thinking was, ‘oh I need to make sure her organs are taken care of.’ We were distraught," says Briggett Flear, Courtney’s mom.
They trusted the professionals would make sure Courtney’s wishes were followed.
When someone dies at a hospital, it’s protocol to contact the Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates (KODA).
However, if it happens outside the hospital, the wording of the law does not make it a requirement.
Coroner Dewayne Trafford says it’s that wording that caused Courtney’s body to be overlooked.
"You know, I’m not trying to make excuses but, we dropped the ball," says Trafford.
"To know now that her wishes to be able to help somebody else, even in her passing, were not acknowledged. That hurts even more," says Gary Flear.
Now the Flears are trying to reword current legislation. Changing words like "may release" to "must release." They’re calling it Courtney’s Law.
"If this legislation can get some wording changed, maybe then that would be the best thing for everybody."
"This is the only way that I can speak for her," says Briggett Flear.
There is a difference between dying in a hospital and dying at an accident site. At a hospital, major organs can be rescued with the help of life support.
In Courtney’s case, because she died on scene, major organs could not be saved. However, things like her soft tissue, large bones, heart valves and corneas could have been saved if they were removed within 24 hours, but that call was never made.
Courtney’s parents say if that call was made, as many as 50 people could have benefited from her organs.