Hospitals fined for transplant blunder

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 September, 2011, 12:00am

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Taiwanese health authorities have fined two hospitals NT$150,000 (HK$40,320) each for mistakenly transplanting organs from an HIV-infected donor to five patients in one of the island's most serious medical blunders ever.

'There were three very obvious shortcomings in this case, including misunderstood communications between the laboratories and co- ordinators of the organ transplant operation,' Shih Chung-liang, director of the Department of Health's Bureau of Medical Affairs, told a news conference in Taipei yesterday.

The second shortcoming was the failure to double-check documents showing the result of the donor's HIV test - an essential action before any organ transplant operations could be conducted, Shih said.

'And the third and most serious shortcoming was the failure to double-check the test result by the physicians involved in the transplant team,' he said.

The blunder resulted in four patients at Taipei's National Taiwan University Hospital receiving the donor's liver, kidneys and a lung, and a fifth patient at National Cheng Kung University Hospital in the southern city of Tainan getting the donor's heart on August 24.

The hospitals realised only two days later that the donor was an HIV carrier.

The donor was later identified as a young man from Hsinchu in northern Taiwan who accidentally fell to his death late last month. Unaware of his disease, his family later donated his organs.

Shih said that, as an initial punishment, the two hospitals would each be ordered to pay fines of NT$150,000 while a task force formed by the health authorities investigated to find out who should be held responsible for the negligence involved.

'We have also requested that the two hospitals work out a compensation and health follow-up scheme for the victims in the next few days,' Shih said, adding that the health authorities would also hold a meeting soon on how to aid the victims and their families.

Asked if the fines were too small, considering the constant fear that the victims would be living with, Shih said the law stipulated that the maximum fine for such a blunder was NT$150,000.

The National Taiwan University Hospital has apologised to the patients and promised to give them full follow-up medical care.

The Taipei prosecutors' office has assigned a prosecutor with a medical background to investigate the case. Spokesman Wang Wen-teh said yesterday that any party found to have been negligent could face a prison term of up to 10 years.

Taiwan has 7,536 candidates on a waiting list for organ transplants, according to the Taiwan Organ Registry and Sharing Centre. Three-quarters are waiting for kidneys.

407

organs had been donated in Taiwan in the first half of this year, which came from 107 deceased donors, according to registry figures