South Dakota eye bank denies fault in Palestinians' injuries

AP News
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Posted: Jul 28, 2016 10:46 AM

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota-based eye and tissue bank says it isn't responsible for injuries caused by infected corneas that were shipped to the Palestinian territories.

Two Palestinians are suing the South Dakota Lions Eye and Tissue Bank, alleging the corneas provided for their transplants caused eye problems, the Argus Leader (http://argusne.ws/2azmmXU ) reported. The lawsuit says the 19-year-old woman became blind in her right eye and that the 17-year-old male's vision is threatened in both eyes.

The plaintiffs argue that the corneas shouldn't have been used because they were recovered from a Minnesota man who had severe health problems and suffered an unattended death in his hot apartment in July 2015. They allege that the eye bank was aware that test results showed the corneas were infected several days before they were used in the transplants.

The eye and tissue bank, now known as Dakota Lions Sight & Health, said in its response to the federal lawsuit that problems with the transplants were beyond its control, and that Palestinians have no right to sue in the United States.

It's up to the surgeon who is doing the transplant to approve whether or not to use the corneas, according to Dr. John Berdahl, the volunteer medical director of the eye bank.

Berdahl said he doesn't know if their doctors have "the same process we do, but the process we go through is a pretty rigorous one."

He said any incidents are reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Eye Bank Association of America, which accredits eye banks.

An FDA spokeswoman said that the agency inspected the eye bank in March and April.

Jennifer DeMatteo, the director of regulations and standards for the Eye Bank Association of America, said in an email that her organization collects and information about adverse reactions, but doesn't provide this information to the public.

The lawsuit also targets Minnesota-based American Donor Services, which has declined to comment on the case.

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Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com