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Wife Gets Damages in Eye Bank Suit

January 10, 1998

DECATUR, Ga. (AP) _ A woman whose late husband’s eyes were donated to an eye bank against his wishes was awarded $700,000 Friday by a jury.

Shelley McCown sued two nurses and the Peachtree Hospice at DeKalb Medical Center, alleging negligence, mutilation, failure to train and supervise nursing personnel and failure to provide medical records.

Ms. McCown has also settled a suit against the nonprofit Georgia Eye Bank for an undisclosed sum.

Steve McCown was 57 when he died of cancer in 1993. He had declined to be an organ donor when he renewed his driver’s license earlier that year, and told his wife he was reluctant to be a donor, she testified.

Three weeks after his death, Ms. McCown received a letter from the eye bank thanking her for the donation of her husband’s eyes.

A nurse who cared for McCown on his last day testified that she noted on a form that Ms. McCown had told her there should be no donation.

Another nurse, Judy Musco, testified that the nurse had told her Ms. McCown had changed her mind. Ms. Musco changed the form to reflect that Ms. McCown had given permission to remove the eyes.

Director of nursing Sandy Yates signed the form as a witness, although she had not discussed the donation with anyone. Ms. Musco and Ms. Yates were the nurses named in the lawsuit.

Ms. McCown said on the witness stand that the hospice needed to ``stand up and face what they did wrong″ rather than ``sweep it under the rug.″

Defense attorney Ed Kellogg conceded the eyes were mistakenly removed, but reminded jurors that Ms. Musco and Ms. Yates had apologized on the witness stand.

``She’s already got what she wanted,″ Kellogg said.

The jury awarded Ms. McCown $418,000 in compensation and $300,000 in punitive damages.

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