Transplant Surgeons Changed Practice after HIV/HCV Transmission Case
By Peter Laird, MD
In 2007, the news that four patients received HIV/HCV contaminated tissues from a high risk organ donor rocked the transplant medical community which still affects decisions on donors today. One of the patients who received a kidney transplant sued because she was not informed that the donor was a high risk patient. Unfortunately, even though the donors tests were negative for HIV/HCV at the time of donation, his high risk behaviour as a 38 year old gay man led to an undetected infection which he passed on to the recipients of his organs. The publicity surrounding this case still governs transplant practices among many of the nations transplant surgeons.
Transplant Docs Change Practice After HIV/HCV Case
In 2007, transplants from a single high-risk donor transmitted both HIV and hepatitis C to four organ recipients, despite negative antibody tests before the procedures. The case made national headlines, Segev and colleagues noted, and sparked a debate about informed consent and testing for HIV. . .
To see what effect the case had, Segev and colleagues surveyed transplant surgeons across the U.S. between Jan. 17, 2008, and April 15, 2008, getting responses from 422 surgeons in current practice.
Of those, they found, 297 reported using high-risk donors, but 31.6% changed practice after the 2007 event. Specifically:
41.7% of those who changed decreased use of high-risk donors.
34.5% increased the emphasis on informed consent.
16.7% increased use of nucleic acid testing.
6% implemented a formal policy.
In this specific case, CDC guidelines on high risk donors were over looked when the patients were not informed of the donors high risk status. The patient that sued after her renal transplant had previously turned down an earlier transplant because the donor was likewise high risk. In this case, the transplant surgeons were all aware of the donor’s status but did not pass that information on to the patients. All four recipients later turned positive for both Hep C and HIV, the first such documented transmission in 20 years.
Transplant Patient a 'Mess" after HIV Diagnosis
CHICAGO — A woman in her 30s who is one of the four organ transplant patients infected with HIV and hepatitis was not told that the infected donor was high risk, and had previously rejected another donor “because of his lifestyle,” her attorney said.
Attorney Thomas Demetrio filed a petition Thursday in Cook County Circuit Court on behalf of the woman, asking officials to keep a hospital and an organ procurement center from destroying or altering any records involving the donation.
“She’s really a mess right now,” Demetrio said of the Chicago-area woman. “She’s still in shock.”
In the rush to increase organ donations, taking shortcuts on any aspect of this care is paid in the end analysis by the unfortunate patients who learned that their life saving transplant gave them two deadly viruses at the same time. The current caution on the part of transplant surgeons who have changed their practice standards because of this case is prudent and should be encouraged. Throwing caution to the wind is a losing strategy in any situation, this one turned out to be tragic.