C2 THURSDAY. MAY 28, 1998 HEALTH THE SALINA JOURNAL T CORNEA DONATION Coroner's laws upset families of deceased )n many states, it's OK fpr coroner to approve (donation of corneas By JANET McCONNAUGHEY The Associated Press ''NEW ORLEANS — You and ypur family may not be the only people who can decide whether to donate your' corneas, bone and either tissue for transplants. ) In many states, if your body yfinds up in a morgue and the coroner's office cannot find your riext of kin, state law lets the coroner approve donation of corneas and sometimes other parts. ; j It isn't clear how often the laws, Known as coroner's laws, are used. :; The Eye Bank Association of A'merica met earlier this year to cljiscuss whether to continue supporting the laws, which have prompted a number of suits. Some directors adamantly opposed the laws, but the group decided not to 'oppose them because different states have different needs, said Sandy Krichbaum, executive director of the Southern Eye Bank in New Orleans. •', She said her eye bank relies on Louisiana's law to learn about potential donors but has not taken £iry corneas without the family's cjbnsent since 1990. A search of the eye bank's records indicates that it apparently did so only sporadically before then, she said. ; '• Consent is good both for the family's emotional well-being and medically necessary, to ensure that there's no chance of a transplant transmitting diseases such as AIDS or hepatitis, she said. '. ; "The FDA requires us to know certain things. We can't get that information if the patient is unknown," Krichbaum said. '; In central Louisiana, Rapides Parish Coroner Wesley Dyer said tie thinks most Louisiana coroners let eye and tissue banks take advantage of the coroner's law. : "I've given my people here carte "I've given my people here carte blanche: if you can't find the family — and we (include) the state police and city police and parish police and the hospital on that — if you can't find them before that organ expires, take it." Wesley Dyer Louisiana coroner blanche: if you can't find the family — and we (include) the state police and city police and parish police and the hospital on that — if you can't find them before that organ expires, take it." However, eye banks in Baton Rouge and Shreveport say that, like Southern, they take corneas only if they have the family's written consent and a medical history of the victim. They could not say how long that has been their policy. Corneas, along with bone, heart valves and skin, must be taken from a body within 24 hours after death to be used for transplants. Organs must be taken immediately. Perhaps the biggest coroner's law scandal was reported by the Los Angeles Times last November: The coroner's office was being paid $215 to $335 per pair to let an eye bank harvest thousands of corneas. Immediately after the story was printed, the coroner's office changed its policy to require family consent. As a result of the articles, the number of corneas taken dropped 70 percent, and a state senator asked the legislature to reverse the 1983 law. Dr. Frank Minyard, the New Orleans coroner, is in court because Barbara Everett believes his office didn't try hard enough to track her down after her son was shot and killed three years ago. She didn't learn until nine months after he was buried that Southern Transplant Services had taken some bone from his hip and possibly his corneas. She only learned then because, under orders from the Food and Drug Administration, STS called to ask if Leroy Everett had AIDS or hepatitis. "I said, 'Leroy never was unknown,'" recalled Everett's mother, whose suit seeks damages. "She said, 'Yes, but you were.' I said, 'If you'd put his Social Security number through, you would have found me.'" She told Judge Max N. Tobias Jr. that she got no comfort from knowing that her son's body had helped other people. Everett's was among 117 unidentified bodies from which Southern Transplant took bones and corneas between January 1991 and April 1995, according to court testimony. Another. 569 bodies had been identified. Minyard said Southern Transplant took corneas for Southern Eye Bank, but Krichbaum said that wasn't so. When bodies are identified, Minyard testified, it is Southern Transplant's job to track down families and get transplant permission. It was not clear from his testimony what happens if there is no permission, and the judge told people involved in the suit not to talk to reporters. Date for.a trial has not been set. Iowa's law never used A number of states have laws similar to Louisiana's, which was passed in 1997 and based on a Florida law, but many are rarely used. Iowa's law has never been used since it was passed in 1995, said lean strongly toward family rights Dave Huey, spokesman for the and support. In nine cases out of 10, we'd give up the tissue donation rather than make an error," 22 DICKINSON ftfytf I II I A I 1< I v FROM THE CREATORS OF INDEPENDENCE DAY Walking good exercise for elderly By The Associated Press .' NEW YORK •— Walking is wonderful exercise for anybody, but it's particularly good for the elderly. As a weight-bearing exercise, it helps build bone mass, which protects against fractures. Walking is also good for the heart. 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