Wisconsin Eye Bank files lawsuit against Milwaukee County Medical Examiner

Posted at 11:04 PM, Aug 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-22 00:04:52-04

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner is now facing a lawsuit.  At issue, cornea donations.

The I-Team learned of the lawsuit right after it was filed this morning by the Lions Eye Bank of Wisconsin.  In it LEBW alleges Milwaukee County's Chief Medical Examiner is breaking Wisconsin law by giving an out-of-state eye bank exclusive rights to recover donated corneas.

In June the medical examiner's office contacted LEBW informing the non-profit eye bank it would no longer be referring donated corneas to the organization.  According to the lawsuit, over the last three years LEBW has handled hundreds of referrals from the medical examiner. 

The office is now using SightLife, an eye bank based in Seattle, to recover corneas and prepare them for donation.  The lawsuit states the medical examiner did not comply with requirements of a Wisconsin statute when it decided to completely exclude LEBW from eye recoveries.

Up until now, LEBW has been the only eye bank operating in Wisconsin.  Last month we reported LEBW's concerns about this new eye bank coming into the state.  Eye banks are traditionally non-profit.  SightLife has a "for-profit" arm that's involved in the preparation of donated corneas for transplant.

The lawsuit directs the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner to quote "permit Lions Eye Bank of Wisconsin equal opportunity to participate in direct referrals for eye recoveries."

We reached out to the county's lawyer, she told us "the allegations lack merit...and we look forward to vigorously defending the medical examiner."