Litigation is expected in a terrible tragedy developing over the use of cancerous organs mistakenly given to organ transplant patients who later died or developed cancer. The organs were harvested from 15-year-old Alex Koehne, who was erroneously diagnosed with bacterial meningitis when he really died from a rare form of lymphoma. The has occurred as another family is suing the University of Pennsylvania for giving Tony Grier a cancerous lung in a transplant.
There does not appear to be any basis for liability by the parents of Alex, Jim and Lisa Koehne who acted on their doctor’s advice and tried to use the tragic death of their son to help others.
The doctors and hospital, however, could face some serious liability. It was not until a year later that the Koehne’s learned that an autopsy found that Alex from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. They were also told that two of the recipients had died and two others had the donor kidneys removed and are in treatment.
While the two hospitals have revised their transplant procedures, some families are already retaining lawyers.
Notably, it remains rare to contract such disease from an organ transplant: Only 64 out of 230,000 cases, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.
The Koehnes requested an autopsy. They were told a month later that Alex had actually died from a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a blood cancer which affects fewer than 1,500 patients in the U.S. annually.
It is now quite common to see litigation over misdiagnosis, particularly in the failure to spot cancer before it spreads. Cases allowed recovery for reduction in survivability when cancer metastasizes. Here, however, the causation chain is longer. The misdiagnosis of Alex led to injuries to third parties. After for the hospital (as opposed to the original doctors for Alex), the liability is probably more clear in the failure to have proper tests and protocols to address this risk.
In the case of Tony Grier, the doctors gave him the lung of a pack-a-day smoker and then did not take action when a spot appeared on his lung a month later. His family is suing for $5 million. For the full story, click here.
For the full story, click here.