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Donated kidney thrown out during transplant surgery

Posted by Thomas Pettinicchi of D'Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC on Sep 06, 2012 in Surgical Errors

As Connecticut residents know, errors that occur in medical settings, especially in surgery, have the potential to be life-threatening and devastating. Surgical errors that occur during an organ transplant can destroy the recipient's chance at regaining a normal life. While sometimes unexpected circumstances arise, victims in medical malpractice cases have the right to know if they were cared for appropriately.

One area where we sometimes hear about medical mistakes is transplants. Transplants are time-sensitive operations because they require that the organ is kept viable until it can be implanted in the recipient. Usually, this means organs must be kept cool and are often transported from hospital to hospital in a cooler. Sometimes, however, transplant organs are not treated properly.

An Ohio hospital is investigating an incident in which a donor kidney was allegedly treated improperly during a transplant surgery. The kidney, which was donated by the female patient's brother, was apparently thrown out with surgical rubbish instead of being delivered to the intended patient. The surgery, which can take five hours to complete, was not completed and the woman and her brother were later released.

This case is particularly unfortunate because it not only put the woman's life at increased risk as she must now wait longer for a kidney, but it also wasted a valuable organ. Additionally, it can be challenging to find organ donors, and stories such as this one may increase people's reluctance to donate. The patient may be able to sue the hospital for damages, since it put her through unnecessary surgery and indefinitely prolonged her transplant. The brother may also have a case to sue, as he was put through an unnecessary surgery.

In the meantime, the hospital's transplant program has been shut down temporarily for review. Hopefully they will be able to find a better way of ensuring clear communication among medical staff and proper treatment of transplant organs.

Source: The Washington Post, "Surgeon, officials review Ohio kidney transplant mistake; program on hold, may affect hundreds," Aug. 30, 2012