Thursday, February 01, 2001

Judge to rule on fairness of cornea settlement

By Patrick Stack
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A federal judge today will decide the fairness of a class-action settlement in a cornea-harvesting scandal involving the Hamilton County Coroner's Office.

        The settlement, announced by county officials in July, requires the county and co-defendants Cincinnati Eye Bank for Sight Restoration and Eye Bank Association of America to pay $5.25 million to more than 550 families.

        The settlement - 11 years in the works - results from findings that a former county coroner harvested corneas from bodies during the 1980s despite family objections.

        U.S. District Judge S. Arthur Spiegel s expected to rule at a 2 p.m. hearing at which families involved will be allowed to give their opinions.

        Over the course of the lawsuit, filed in 1989, the court found that the county was liable for former Coroner Dr. Frank Cleveland's policy of harvesting corneas from autopsies without family consent.

        Deborah Brotherton, who was the first person to contact lawyer John Metz after her husband's corneas were removed over her objections in 1988, said Wednesday she would not voice an objection to the settlement amount today.

        But, that doesn't mean it's a fair amount of money to compensate families for their suffering.

        “This has been a very long, grueling battle, so is $5 million fair?” she said. “No, it isn't. This isn't something that's easy to put a number on.”

        “I think this type of an injury is so deep, I don't know if there's ever enough money to make a person OK,” said Mr. Metz.


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