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Procedural error at trial overshadows possible malpractice claim

Organ donors save lives in Chicago and throughout the rest of the state of Illinois. When tragedies claim the lives of designated organ donors, others receive new leases on life through lifesaving transplants. While some organ transplant stories have happy endings, one story that unfolded at a Chicago hospital had anything but a joyful result.

In 2007 a woman underwent a kidney transplant at the University of Chicago Medical Center. She received the kidney from a man who had died in a car accident. Several other individuals received organs from that man as well.

Within about a year, the woman's body rejected the new kidney and she was put on dialysis to continue treatment for her medical condition. However, during the time that the donated organ was in her body, the woman contracted two devastating diseases: HIV and hepatitis C. She learned that her donor had been a homosexual man and she claimed that if she had known about his lifestyle she would have said no to his kidney. Other organ recipients of the same donor contracted those diseases as well.

The woman sued the hospital and the surgeon who performed her procedure for malpractice. Her surgeon, however, was released from the lawsuit and ultimately did not stand as a defendant in the matter. The woman lost her lawsuit at the trial level and appealed the decision to a higher court.

On appeal the woman claimed that the hospital had offered an incorrect instruction to the jury. The instruction effectively stated that if the doctor who performed the surgery was not negligent then no hospital negligence could attach to the medical center. The court that heard the matter on appeal agreed with the woman and sent the matter back for retrial.

Mistakes made throughout the entirety of the woman's experience at the University of Chicago Medical Center may have contributed to her worsened condition. She was not informed of her donor's potentially questionable history and was subjected to an operation that left her with two dangerous diseases. Due to the ruling of the appeals court she will fortunately have another chance to tell her story and seek compensation for her extensive injuries.

Source: Crain's Chicago Business - Chicago Healthcare Daily, "Woman diagnosed with HIV after kidney transplant gets new trial," Steven R. Strahler, Sept. 15, 2014

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