pittsburgh medical malpractice victims file lawsuits against upmc

Last August, we wrote about the horrific experience of one Pittsburgh couple. Christina donated her kidney to her life-partner, Michael, hoping that her action could help save his life. Instead, she unintentionally exposed him to hepatitis C because of multiple surgical errors made by hospital staff.

Today, we would like provide an update to that medical malpractice post. Earlier this week, the donor and recipient of the infected kidney filed separate lawsuits against UPMC and the doctors responsible for the kidney transplant. Both spoke publically about the pain that this egregious error caused them.

Michael was told last January that a kidney transplant offered the best hope for saving his life. As a patient with diabetic nephropathy, he had already undergone dialysis for months when his girlfriend received word that she would be able to donate one of her kidneys to him. The couple was hopeful that the procedure would give them a new lease on life.

Unfortunately, Christina never should have been allowed to donate her kidney to anyone. Although the hospital’s blood work revealed that she had hepatitis C on January 26, she still received an approval letter on March 24. She was not told until May 6, a full month after the surgery was completed, that the hospital knew she had the disease.

According to the lawsuit that Christina filed, the surgeon who notified her about her disease suggested that she did not have to tell her life partner who received the infected kidney. She is claiming what seems obvious to many who have heard about this story: that multiple doctors, nurses and others involved in UPMC’s transplant program acted negligently.

Unfortunately, the results of that negligence cannot be undone. Both Christina and Michael now have to live with the reality of being infected with hepatitis C. Thankfully, neither are showing symptoms of the disease yet. As a nurse, however, Christina knows that it is only a matter of time before the hepatitis C could damage Michael’s liver. That would put him in the difficult position of needing yet another transplant.

The hospital spokeswoman admitted that “human error” is to blame for this tragic situation. However, she denied “any allegation of a cover-up.” Only time will tell to what extent the hospital is willing to compensate Christina and Michael for the physical and emotional damage they have suffered due to this medical malpractice.

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “Two lawsuits filed over UPMC transplant error,” Luis Fabregas, Sept. 21, 2011

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