On August 10, 2012, at Ohio’s University of Toledo Medical Center, a man voluntarily had surgery to have one of his healthy kidneys removed so that it could be implanted into his sister, who desperately needed a kidney transplant. In what appears to have been an unfathomable hospital error, the healthy donated kidney was inadvertently placed with medical waste and thrown away before the man’s sister could receive the gift-of-life from her brother. Both the man and his sister have since been discharged from the hospital.
The hospital’s president blamed the incident on “human error,” which evidently occurred when a nurse believed that the kidney had already been transplanted into the woman and placed the kidney with medical waste. The life-giving kidney could not be used in the transplant once the horrible mistake was discovered.
As a result of the incident, the hospital’s kidney transplant program has been temporarily suspended while an investigation is conducted. The hospital’s administrator of surgical services and two nurses have been suspended pending the results of the investigation, which may take several weeks. The hospital has sent letters to 975 patients, potential kidney donors, and potential kidney recipients regarding the temporary suspension of the kidney transplant program at the hospital.
The University of Toledo Medical Center had performed 16 living-donor kidney transplants and 37 cadaver-donor kidney transplants during 2011, which represent a very small number of the more than 16,700 kidney transplants conducted in the United States each year (more than one-third of kidney transplants, which are the most common type of organ transplant in the United States, involve living donors).
How could this have happened? Protocols and checklists used in operating rooms are drafted, implemented, and required to be strictly followed in order to prevent the possibility of such an “error.” Stating that the incident was due to “human error” downplays and denigrates the effect that the trashing of the donor kidney would have on both the donor and recipient.
Can you imagine the reaction and emotional trauma of the brother and sister when they were told sometime shortly after they awoke from anesthesia that the living, healthy, healing, life-giving kidney lovingly donated by the brother was placed in the trash as if it was a leftover after a meal?
Organ transplantation is one of the greatest medical innovations from the last century. Improvements in surgical techniques and the availability of newer, powerful, and better drugs used in organ transplantation procedures have greatly increased the success rate of organ transplantation and have widened the number of available organs for transplant for a greater number of suffering patients.
In the not-too-distant past, patients with organ disease, organ dysfunction, or organ death had little, if any, hope of living a long and fulfilling life. We commend the continuing and extraordinary efforts of medical researchers in the United States and throughout the world whose work provides ever-increasing hope to very sick patients — patients, who just a few years ago would have had a shortened and lesser quality of life, now have their prayers being answered.
The Ohio incident highlights the fact that much of health care today still requires the individual and collective efforts of human beings, each of whom must act competently and professionally at all times — when they don’t, people suffer and some unnecessarily die as a result.
If you may be the victim of medical malpractice in Ohio or in another state in the United States, you should promptly contact a local medical malpractice attorney to investigate your possible medical malpractice claim for you.
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