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Live donor transplant error may lead to medical malpractice suit

A rare and shocking medical error has made headlines in Wisconsin and across the country. A brother and sister who checked into a hospital in another state for a living donor organ transplant left having both been operated on, but without a transplant being completed. The reason: instead of giving the healthy kidney to the surgeon to be placed in the recipient's body, someone on the surgical team threw the viable organ into the trash. This case has not yet led to any form of litigation, but a medical malpractice suit may be on the horizon.

The case begins with a woman who is in need of a kidney transplant. Her brother stepped in to donate one of his, and the pair checked into a hospital to undergo the procedure. Details on exactly what happened during the surgeries are sparse, but it is clear that at some point during the procedure the brother's kidney was removed from his body and disposed of in the receptacle for medical waste. This act rendered the organ unsuitable for transplant, and both brother and sister awoke from surgery to find that the procedure had not been completed.

The hospital is conducting an internal audit of their transplant procedures, and state health officials are investigating the incident. As of yet, two nurses and a surgical services administrator have been placed on paid leave in the incident. The surgeon who conducted the operations has not received a suspension. There is no mention of whether the woman has received a new kidney.

For the family of these siblings, there are likely a multitude of questions that may never be adequately answered. Most Americans accept that there is a degree of human error inherent in all medical practice in Wisconsin and elsewhere. However, in this incident it is hard to comprehend how such a simple and seemingly obvious mistake could have been made by a team of highly trained professionals. Should this family decide to move forward with a medical malpractice lawsuit, it would be hard to deny that they could make a very strong case for negligence.

Source: Bloomberg Business Week, "Surgeon, officials review Ohio transplant error," Kantele Franko, Aug. 30, 2012

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