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Medical malpractice: Donated kidney disposed of in trash

Organ transplant surgery has come a long way in recent years, and has saved many lives in Massachusetts and elsewhere that would have been lost just a few decades ago. Among such procedures, kidneys are the most commonly transplanted organ. The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network states that last year in the United States 11,000 kidney transplants were performed from deceased donors, and another 5,700 from living donors. However, no matter how advanced the surgical technique, human error can still lead to tragedy, and often to a medical malpractice suit.

A recent transplant surgery involves a rare case in which a seemingly simple error has led to a significant loss for one set of siblings. A woman was in need of a kidney transplant, and when her brother stepped forward and was deemed a suitable match, all seemed on track for a heartwarming story of love and charity. However, an unknown series of errors led to the donor organ being thrown into the trash, and both siblings sent home to recover from a surgical procedure that left one missing a kidney and the other still in need of a transplant.

The surgery normally takes several hours and is conducted by a five-person surgical team. While details surrounding the incident are sparse, the president of the hospital has issued a statement that suggests that someone on the team wrongly believed that the kidney had already been placed within the recipient's body at the time of the disposal. As a result, both brother and sister underwent surgical procedures that in the end were for naught,

The hospital where the surgeries took place is currently investigating the incident. In addition, three medical workers have been suspended following the mistake. The surgeon involved with these procedures is not among them.

Massachusetts transplant patients and their families know what it is like to wait for a donor and prepare for a lifesaving surgery. However, it is virtually impossible to comprehend what this family must be going through. The brother who displayed enormous courage and generosity is now left with only one kidney, while his sister presumable is still in need of a new kidney, and has now undergone an unnecessary surgical procedure. Should the family decide to move forward with a medical malpractice suit, it would be hard to imagine that anyone could present a more compelling argument in a court of law.

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

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