Madison-based Lions Eye Bank of Wisconsin is suing Dr. Brian Peterson, Milwaukee County’s medical examiner, alleging he has excluded the eye bank from recovering corneas in violation of state law.
Peterson switched to Seattle-based SightLife for cornea recoveries in June, according to the Lions eye bank, which filed the suit Monday in Milwaukee County Circuit Court.
“We believe this legal action is needed for (the Lions Eye Bank) to gain a level playing field,” Darice Langham, executive director of the nonprofit Lions Eye Bank, said in a statement Tuesday.
Margaret Daun, corporation counsel for Milwaukee County, said the medical examiner’s agreement is with the Wisconsin Tissue Bank and complies with the law.
The tissue bank is part of the Blood Center of Wisconsin, which announced a partnership with SightLife in June.
Langham told the Wisconsin State Journal early this month that the blood center asked hospitals in its 12-county region to switch to SightLife because the Lions Eye Bank raised safety and quality concerns about the blood center.
The shift could mean corneas from some Wisconsin donors will be less likely to go to Wisconsin recipients, Langham said.
Colleen McCarthy, the blood center’s vice president of organ and tissue donation, said the center partnered with SightLife — a nonprofit with a for-profit subsidiary — to simplify the cornea recovery process for hospitals and provide a larger pool of corneas to surgeons.
Peterson, the medical examiner, serves as chairman of an advisory board for the Wisconsin Donor Network, the organ donor part of the blood center. He told the State Journal he disapproves of how the Lions Eye Bank handled some cornea recoveries and supports SightLife’s goal of using donor corneas to end blindness worldwide.