Two Patients Sue Oregon Organ, Tissue Banks After Contracting Hepatitis C from Donor Tissues
Two people who contracted hepatitis C after receiving tissue transplants from a donor who was infected with the virus yesterday filed separate multimillion dollar lawsuits against Community Tissue Services and Pacific Northwest Transplant Bank, the not-for-profit Portland, Ore., organizations that screened and provided the tissue, the AP/Washington Post reports. The two lawsuits seek a total of $27.4 million in damages from the organizations (Flaccus, AP/Washington Post, 10/11). Oregon health officials last week reported that 40 people received organs or tissue from a man who had an undiagnosed case of viral hepatitis. Of the six people who received organs from the man, who died two years ago of a brain hemorrhage, five have died. One died of liver disease, possibly caused by exposure to the infected organ. Of those receiving tissue, four have tested positive for hepatitis C, three have tested positive but were found to have been infected before receiving the tissue and nine have shown no signs of infection. Health officials last week continued to search for the remaining patients (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/4). The lawsuits allege that the tissue and organ banks did not perform "adequate" tests on the donor's tissues before permitting them to be transplanted. The plaintiffs argue that the organizations should have used a "more thorough" hepatitis C test and should have warned tissue and organ recipients of the risk of hepatitis C. PNTB Executive Director Mike Seely said that his organization did "all the required tests" on the donor's body, including performing a biopsy on the liver, and did not detect the virus. He added that the test requested by the plaintiffs is "unreliable," not yet approved for use on cadaver blood and can take a week to obtain test results. Seely added, "[T]here's nothing that can really be done in these cases until science catches up with a test that can eliminate the window [of time when hepatitis C is present but cannot yet be detected]. We don't take this lightly. We're as thorough as we can be and as thorough as current diagnostic testing can be." Community Tissue Services Chief Operating Officer Diane Wilson said the case was "unfortunate" but could not have been prevented (AP/Washington Post, 10/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.