Slain teen’s eyes taken for donation without family’s consentBy Niña Calleja
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The parents of the youth leader who was stabbed dead in Makati City before dawn Sunday while patrolling the streets said they are planning to press charges against the Eye Bank Foundation of the Philippines for taking their son’s eyes without their consent.
“We were so hurt. My son was treated like an animal. What they did was disrespectful,” said Jonie, a registered nurse and mother of the slain Jason Infante, 18.
The young Infante was the Sangguniang Kabataan chair of Barangay Valenzuela who was stabbed dead by a man whom he and two other barangay officials on patrol reprimanded for drinking alcohol in the open street.
Infante died in the hospital while his companions were seriously wounded. The suspect, along with his female companion, was later arrested and charged with murder.
Jonie recalled that after her son passed away at 10 a.m. on Sunday, members of the Eye Bank Foundation of the Philippines, an organization helping those in need of corneal transplant surgery, managed to enter the morgue in Funeraria Filipinas on J.P. Rizal Street and extracted Infante’s eyes.
“It was theft. They took away someone’s valuable possessions. Now that my son had died, it was all that he had,” a tearful Jonie told the Inquirer in an interview at her son’s wake at Loyola Memorial Chapel in Guadalupe, Makati.
She said the family only learned that Jason’s eyes were gone on Monday when they saw him in the coffin for the first time and noticed a change in his face.
In a message posted on his Facebook account, the victim’s sibling Juan Paolo Infante, noted that “my brother had bigger eyes so it was evident that something was wrong.”
With the help of the embalmers at Loyola, it was discovered that Infante’s eyes had been replaced with a small cup and a plastic ball, he said.
Later, he said, the owner of Funeraria Filipinas, the manager of Eye Bank Foundation and a doctor from the Philippine National Police crime laboratory (who did the autopsy and medico-legal report) went to the wake and explained what happened.
Juan Paolo said that according to these people, Infante’s eyes were taken even without his family’s consent since it was supposedly allowed under Republic Act 7885 or the 1991 Organ Donation Act.
But he said his family later did their own research on that law and found no such provision.
“We would have given them Jason’s eyes. If we were just asked earlier, we would have liked the idea of giving his eyes to others in need. But the manner by which they took them was entirely wrong,” Jonie said.
In a statement, Dr. Miguita Padilla, founder and president of Eye Bank Foundation, apologized to the Infantes.
“We are deeply sorry for the distress the family may have experienced upon realizing that Jason’s corneas were retrieved by the Eye Bank Foundation of the Philippines,” she said.
“We are aware that amidst the grief no words of explanation will suffice at the moment to help soothe the pain of his family. We assure all that the retrieval of Jason’s corneas was done in good faith, in accordance with the mandate of the Eye Bank Foundation, and with utmost respect and care for Jason.”
Padilla said she visited Jason’s wake and gave the family the choice on what to do with the corneas that had been taken from the dead.
“We might donate his eyes just the same, but we still plan to file the appropriate charges against those liable,” said Jonie.