Medical Examiner Referral System

Our team is in constant pursuit of untapped opportunities for organ and tissue donation. In 2014, the innovative referral system we created for three St. Louis-area medical examiner offices helped change hundreds of recipient lives for the better.

As one of MTS’ transplant partners, Dr. Sean Edelstein uses corneal donations sourced from the ME referral program to perform vision-saving transplants.


Medical examiners (MEs) investigate many of the deaths that happen outside the hospital setting — but unlike hospitals, MEs are not required by law to report these deaths to organ procurement organizations (OPOs). Since the existing referral process wasn’t always intuitive or convenient, countless families were not offered the opportunity to donate.

We had to identify what was preventing local medical examiners and their death investigators from working with us to report those deaths.

Dan Lunn

Director of Eye Bank Operations at MTS

No time for inefficiency

average number of yearly death investigations reported to the St. Charles, Jefferson, and Franklin Counties Medical Examiner’s Office — many of which could be viable tissue donors if reported to MTS
average number of death investigations that happen during a shift at the St. Charles, Jefferson, and Franklin Counties Medical Examiner’s Office — investigations that can take anywhere from 20 minutes to several days to complete

View By The Numbers

Prior to our current reporting system, investigators would hesitate to refer donors when they were already working long hours on complicated cases. Referring donors meant fielding multiple phone calls from the OPO’s office — calls that could be long after their shift, or in the middle of the night.

Kathleen Hargrave

Chief Forensic Investigator, St. Charles, Jefferson, and Franklin Counties Medical Examiner’s Office



MTS worked with three St. Louis-area medical examiners’ offices to establish a standardized process that makes reporting potential donors fast, simple, and ultimately as easy as clicking a button in their existing software program.

It's easy to refer now using email, iPad, or phone, and my investigators know they won't have to field multiple calls from MTS when they are busy taking death reports, family inquiries, or handling investigative follow-ups. The efficiency of our system affords more families the opportunity to donate.

Kathleen Hargrave

Chief Forensic Investigator, St. Charles, Jefferson, and Franklin Counties Medical Examiner’s Office

A Simplified Donor Referral System

  • ME fills out standard death investigation form
  • Donor data auto-populates to MTS referral form
  • ME clicks a button
  • Referral sent to MTS' communication center for tissue donation opportunities

New Referral Technology

iPads disbursed to offsite employees of the St. Charles, Jefferson, and Franklin County Medical Examiner’s Office, making it possible to refer potential tissue donors from the field

View By The Numbers

Donors Registered, Lives Saved
The ME referral program provides MTS’ Eye Bank with a supply of high quality tissue donations which result in vision-saving cornea transplants.


With the ME referral program in place, we are able to provide more vision-saving corneas to our transplant partners.

Meet the Recipients

A steady supply of corneal donations makes it possible for transplant patients like Anabelle and Carol to live happy, healthy lives.

More vision-saving

increase in the number of MTS eye donors since the ME referral program launched in 2012
number of vision-saving transplants from MTS eye donors in 2014
increase in tissue referrals since the start of the ME referral program

View By The Numbers

I never dreamed I’d be able to see again. Sight is more precious than money or gold. Let me tell you.

William Burnside

In 2014, Mr. Burnside received a corneal transplant that was referred by a St. Louis-area medical examiner’s office.

All three participating ME offices are now listed among the top ten referral sources for eye donations in the St. Louis area — a significant improvement made possible by the new donor referral system.

In 2015, we plan to implement ME referral software with the hope of capturing 100% of death referrals — an innovation that will provide hundreds of additional corneas for sight-saving transplants.