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It was reported today that four organ transplant recipients in Chicago contracted H.I.V and hepatitis C from an organ donor. Two patients were infected at the University of Chicago Medical Center, one at Rush University Medical Center and one at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. These are the first known cases in over a decade.

Since 1994 nearly 300,000 transplants have occurred without any reported cases of H.I.V. transmission.

The donor was an adult who died in an Illinois hospital “three days after traumatic injury.” Neither the donor’s age nor sex was disclosed. However, the donor was indicated as a high risk based upon a risk factor revealed by a close friend who provided a health and social history. Dr. Brown at Columbia said that his patients are informed if the donor is high risk and asked to sign a special consent form. Dr. Brown also said,

“People drink and take drugs and get into car accidents,” he said. “Think about it. We’ve put in I don’t know how many of those organs in the last 10 years at Columbia, and we’ve yet to have a problem. The number of lives we’ve saved outweighs the risk.”

There becomes a dilemma in the medical community regarding doing more intense screening for disease. This is because the organs generally don’t last very long and the time involved in more in-depth testing may cause wasting potentially good organs.

There is a shortage of organs for transplant, and many patients die waiting. Currently in the United States, 98,000 people are on the transplant list, but only about 19,000 transplants have been done this year. Last year, 7,200 died waiting.

For more informmation on this subject, please refer to the section on Medical Malpractice and Negligent Care.

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