A South Dakota eye bank is being sued by two teenagers who either lost their eyesight or are at significant risk of losing their eyesight because the South Dakota eye bank supplied infected corneas that were transplanted in them. One of the plaintiffs is a 19-year-old woman who is now blind in her right eye due to the infected cornea and the other is a 17-year-old male whose eyesight in both eyes is threatened due to infection.
The plaintiffs allege in their South Dakota medical malpractice lawsuit that both of them, who are Palestinian, had to abandon their school work as a result of their infected corneas and the female plaintiff alleges that she is no longer suitable for meaningful marriage in Palestinian culture.
The corneas implanted in both teenagers were harvested from a 58-year-old man who was found dead in his apartment. He was last seen alive at 4:00 p.m. on July 9, 2015 but his body was not discovered until that evening and he was not declared dead until 10:06 p.m. The apartment where the man’s body was found was not air conditioned and the air circulation in his apartment was described as poor (the daytime temperature reached 85 degrees on the date of the man’s death). The man had a medical history that included congestive heart failure and diabetes.
The man’s body was transported from his apartment to a local mortuary where his corneas, bones, and tendons in his lower legs were removed. The man’s donated corneas were processed and then sent out for transplantation.
The South Dakota medical malpractice lawsuit alleges that testing of the removed tissues showed severe systemic infection involving a bacterium that was commonly found on decaying tissue. Despite the test results that were available on July 17, 2015, the man’s corneas were transplanted into both teenagers five days later, on July 22, 2015.
The plaintiffs’ South Dakota medical malpractice lawsuit alleges that the defendants were negligent in using the man’s corneas for transplant in light of his medical history, the time between when he was last seen alive and when he was declared dead, the fact that the man’s body was in a hot apartment without circulating air for a period of time after his death before his body was discovered in a seated position against a wall in his bathroom, and especially in light of the medical testing of the man’s tissues that showed that they were infected with bacteria.
In short, the South Dakota tissue bank is accused of implanting infected corneas in the two recipients from a donor who had been dead too long and whose body was in a hot apartment for an unknown period of time, which made him ineligible to be a candidate for organ and tissue donation.
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