HIV Infected Organs Transplated
The National Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei transplated five organs from an HIV positive patient yesterday. The 37 year old male patient died after a fall and subsequent week long coma. His kidneys, liver and a lung were transplated into four different patients at the hospital; which is one of the best regarded hospitals in Taiwan. The heart was given to a man at another nearby hospital.
You may be wondering how in the world did this happen? According to reports, a hospital staff member misheard HIV testing results given over the phone. "Reactive" was heard as "non-reactive". A full investigation is underway.
What does this mean for the patients though? All five patients received an apology from the hospital. Personally, I don't think an "I'm sorry you will likely get HIV because of our negligence" is going to cut it. The hospital is giving the patients HIV prevention medications, but they will likely contract HIV anyway because they are also taking immunosuppressive medications so they do not reject their new (HIV infected) organ. Unfortunately, should the patients contract HIV, the immunosuppressants they need to remain on for life will make it difficult to manage their HIV and their immune system will take a even greater hit. Should these patients also develop full blown AIDS, it will be almost impossible to control.
The Taiwanese hospital could face "major fines" and the staff will most likely be "penalized". I don't think these fines include the millions they will have to fork over to each of the five families in won suits - because these families WILL sue, and they WILL win. According to the Health Department the hospital's transplant program could be suspended for up to one year. Protocol was in place to double check the HIV status of the donor patient, but this was not followed. It makes you wonder how many other protocols are not followed, not only at this hospital, but at other hospitals around the world.
Aside from the harm to the organ recipients themselves, there is a potential for harm to anyone working on the cases. Just like double checking the HIV status, protocols are also in place for handling blood, bodily fluids and needles. Hopefully these were all followed.
Hopefully everyone can take a lesson from this terrible tragedy, whether you call it a mistake or negligence - people really need to make sure nothing like this happens ever again.