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Medical malpractice claim pending in liver donor death

The couple had planned a road trip into the North Carolina mountains in their near future. Instead, because of alleged medical malpractice, the woman found herself alone and without a husband after a liver transplant surgery. That woman's husband - the victim, in this case - was donating a portion of his liver to his brother-in-law. Instead, he perished, despite physicians' assurances that modern organ transplants are virtually risk-free. The woman has since filed a medical malpractice claim against the transplant team.

Surgeons at the East Coast transplant center were equally shocked by the man's death. Government inspectors were unable to find an error that led to the man's death, but a renowned transplant center was almost shut down because of the incident. Statistics showed that just two donors out of 4,000 had perished in this incident since live liver transplantation began in the U.S., but those numbers did not paint the whole picture.

The victim's wife learned that the risks to her husband were likely higher than expected, largely because information about donor deaths overseas were not discussed. The victim reportedly died from excess bleeding after a surgical tear. Generally, the transplant recipient is more likely to die during an operation; in this situation, the opposite was true.

The incident has led to a new set of proposed policies designed to protect living donors. The United Network for Organ Sharing had failed to implement such recommendations in the three years preceding the victim's death. Federal officials had suggested that independent advocates be provided for living transplant donors, for example, and additional information about the recipients should have been made available.

No one should have to worry about a fatal mistake during a living tissue transplant. Those who have been injured or lost a loved one during a medical procedure may benefit from consulting with a North Carolina personal injury attorney, who might assist them with a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Source: Boston Globe, "Donor’s death shatters family, stuns surgeons" Liz Kowalczyk, Feb. 02, 2014

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