Patients given organs from HIV carrier

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 August, 2011, 12:00am


Organ transplant operations at a renowned hospital in Taiwan could be suspended after a medical blunder last week that resulted in five patients receiving organs from an HIV-positive donor.

Dr Shih Chung-liang, director general of the Department of Health's Bureau of Medical Affairs, said a preliminary investigation showed internal negligence by the National Taiwan University Hospital was to blame for the massive mistake, according to a report in the island's United Evening News yesterday.

The organ transplant team at the centre of the worst medical scandal in the hospital's history could face suspension and be subject to fines ranging from NT$50,000 (HK$13,400) to NT$500,000, Shih said.

The hospital could also face claims for huge payouts to the victims and their families.

Shih Wen-yi, deputy director of the Centres for Disease Control, was quoted yesterday in the same report as placing the blame for the mistake on the hospital, saying: 'Any hospital should conduct a test for the HIV virus before carrying out any operations with blood transfusions or organ transplantations.'

Nobody realised the mistake had been made until the laboratory's blood test report reached the hospital's surgical department on Wednesday, shortly after the transplants were performed that day. The report confirmed that the 37-year-old donor, who died that day, was an HIV carrier.

His liver, a lung and both kidneys were given to four patients at the hospital, while his heart went to a patient at National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan's Central News Agency reported.

Six medical practitioners who were involved in the operations are also at risk of contracting HIV.

Before the operations, an unidentified official at the hospital told the newspaper the donor's HIV test results were conveyed over the phone between staff members of two different departments, which led to a misunderstanding.

A staff member with the transplant team said he heard the results came back negative for HIV. But the laboratory technician who relayed the results said he told the staff member the results were positive.

Aside from the phone call, no written report had been seen before the operation, the newspaper said.

It reported that Shih Chung-liang said the Department of Health demanded on Saturday that the hospital submit a full report to it on the incident no later than tomorrow and that the department would then determine where to place blame.

An unidentified official with the Bureau of Medical Affairs told the newspaper that the hospital might have to pay huge settlements to the victims and their families if the allegations were confirmed.

The hospital's spokesman, Tan Ching-ting, admitted yesterday that it was the hospital's fault and promised that it would take full responsibility. Tan also pledged that the hospital would hand over the evaluation report to the Department of Health on time and conduct a thorough and meticulous review into its organ donation process, as well as into the testing for HIV, hepatitis B and C and syphilis.


The number of patients who may have been exposed to HIV as a result of the operations to transplant organs from the virus carrier