human error results in failed kidney transplant

Thanks to advances in modern medicine, kidney transplants are now a fairly routine surgical procedure. In fact, in the span of only a few hours, surgeons and operating room nurses can give a patient diagnosed with a potentially fatal renal condition the chance to live a long and healthy life.

However, what happens when something goes terribly wrong and the mistakes of hospital staff cause the transplanted kidney to become unusable? How truly devastating is this for the transplant patient and their family?

Sadly, this is exactly what transpired earlier this month at the University of Toledo Medical Center, where a kidney taken from a living donor for transplant into a patient with end-stage renal disease was somehow spoiled by “human error.”

UTMC, which has performed kidney transplants for four decades, is declining to release exact details about the incident, including how the kidney was ruined and who was responsible for it. However, it should be noted that hospital officials have since suspended two operating room nurses with pay after the incident.

Sources with firsthand knowledge of the medical mistake indicated that the kidney — a perfect match — was being donated by a brother to his ailing sister. As of this writing, the sister is still waiting for another kidney.

“We cannot fathom the disappointment that those impacted have experienced over the course of the last week,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gold, chancellor and vice president of biosciences and health affairs at UTMC. “The university cannot begin to express the sorrow that we feel that this unfortunate incident occurred. We apologize sincerely.”

Medical experts indicate that living donor kidney transplants such as this one are now fairly common and can typically be performed in a span of two to three hours.

In the procedure, the kidney is removed from the organ donor, flushed of their blood, packed in ice inside a sterile plastic bag and placed inside another sterile container. It is then taken to a nearby operating room where it is implanted into the organ recipient.

Typically, surgeons transplant the kidney into the recipient within an hour of removal, even though it can remain viable for up to 48 hours. In the UTMC case, it appears as if surgeons unsuccessfully attempted to revive/resuscitate the kidney for upwards of two to three hours after removal before ultimately deciding to abandon their attempts.

UTMC has since suspended its living kidney donation program and is currently conducting an in-depth investigation alongside state health officials, the United Network for Organ Sharing and a cadre of “kidney transplant experts.”

While this is certainly a necessary step, it is likely of little comfort to the family who saw their hopes crushed and deepest fears revived.

If a serious surgical error or nursing error at a Pennsylvania medical facility has compromised your long-term prognosis, consider consulting with a legal professional who will work to secure the justice and peace of mind that you deserve.

Source: The Toledo Blade, “UTMC suspends kidney exchange over human error,” Ignazio Messina, Aug. 23, 2012

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