Posted on 06/02/2021

Can Surgical Errors happen during an Organ Transplant?

Can Surgical Errors happen during an Organ Transplant?

According to an Institute of Medicine study, experts estimate that the number of deaths resulting from medical errors in any given year is almost 100,000.

All surgical procedures come with a certain amount of risk, including more common surgeries that we consider routine. Organ transplant procedures are some of the most lengthy, detailed, and complicated surgical procedures performed today. Their complexity is often intensified because of patients’ underlying medical condition, sometimes requiring a transplant as an essential life-saving tactic.

In organ transplants, because the health of a transplant patient is already compromised by the condition that makes the transplant necessary, it also increases the associated surgical risk. In addition to usual medical malpractice causes, such as healthcare staff negligence or error, transplant patients can experience brain damage, respiratory failure, infections, or worse. 

How Do Errors Occur in the Organ Transplant Surgical Process?

When someone is waiting for an organ transplant, their information is added to a national database that allows their file to be matched with organs available for donation. The database looks at multiple criteria when matching patients and available organs, such as location, current health, or transplant needs.

For example, if a heart becomes available in Michigan, an ideal match would be someone awaiting a transplant who meets any medical criteria and lives in Michigan. The geographic closeness of both donor and recipient helps to reduce the potential for organ deterioration during a long trip. 

The surgical organ transplant process is lengthy and complex, with many moving parts, any one of which may cause medical or surgical errors, including:

  • The hospital and healthcare professionals where the organ donor dies
  • Organ transplant organizations that help match donors and recipients
  • Organ transplant transportation services responsible for properly transferring the organs to the recipient’s hospital
  • The organ transplant team at the hospital where the recipient will undergo surgery
  • Various health care professionals participating in recipient aftercare 

It’s critical that all involved parties strictly adhere to established medical protocols to avoid preventable errors during each step of the organ transplant process. All it takes is one mistake to trigger a devastating outcome. 

Organ Transplant Surgical Errors and Medical Malpractice

The organ transplant surgical process is considered complex surgery, with considerable associated risk, especially for patients already experiencing medical issues requiring treatment by transplant. 

But it can also carry with it the potential for any number of additional, preventable complications resulting from a healthcare professional or medical facility’s negligence, which can include:

  • Using unsanitary medical equipment or facilities
  • Accidentally, or through negligence, using a diseased or otherwise damaged or incompatible organ for transplant
  • Inappropriate anesthesia used during the procedure (i.e., too much or too little anesthesia)
  • Operating or completing the transplant in an incorrect location within the recipient’s body
  • Failing to remove all surgical tools or other equipment, including sponges or gauze, from inside the patient following the surgery
  • The donor or patient did not provide authorization for an organ transplant prior to the transplant procedure.

Examples of organ transplant surgical errors

Risks from infections

Infection is one of the most common organ transplant injuries, with numerous accounts of recipients contracting diseases such as Hepatitis C, HIV, or bacterial meningitis following organ transplant surgery. 

In 2015 a surgical error and attempts to hide the mistake resulted in the death of a 36-year-old Wales, UK man. It was later determined the man received an infected donor liver. 

The surgeon tasked with recovering the organs from the donor that were being used in the transplant did not disclose that he made a “small nick” during the organ recovery process. That one action caused the donor to get a fatal infection. 

A 25-year-old transplant recipient of organs from the same donor also became severely unwell due to the infected kidney he received. He survived, but not before being placed in a medically induced coma and undergoing multiple blood transfusions in addition to a year on dialysis.

Blood type errors

In 2018 a South Carolina man died during a lung transplant because the donor’s blood type had been incorrectly recorded. 

Another blood type error resulted in the death of a 17-year-old girl. The heart and lung transplant patient had Type O blood, but the organs were type A, causing her body to reject them. 

How Do I File a Claim for Medical Malpractice Following Organ Transplant Surgical Errors?

To prove the injuries you experienced were the result of an organ transplant surgical error, you are required to prove two main elements when filing a medical malpractice claim:

  • You must show that the health care professional or medical facility was negligent or failed to meet their legally required standard of care
  • You must show that your injuries were the direct result of that action (or inaction)

Next Steps

Organ transplants are risky, but for many people incapable of surviving without a new heart or other organs, the risk is often something they’re willing to take for the chance at a better quality of life. But they shouldn’t have to take on additional, avoidable risks.

When someone decides to undergo an organ transplant, their life depends on the health care professionals and medical facilities delivering the highest possible standard of medical care. When that standard of care is not met, it can have devastating results and patients can lose their lives.

If a dangerous medical mistake results in injuries or death, the responsible parties should be held accountable for their organ transplant surgical errors. 

When you reach out to the Medical Malpractice Team at Grover Lewis Johnson, we help you evaluate the situation through a free, no-obligation consultation. This helps us to determine whether you have a case. Because we work on a contingency fee basis, you don’t have to pay any fees until we win your case. If we don’t win, you don’t pay.  

When you partner with us, we listen. We are genuinely interested in your case. We put our proven medical malpractice track record to work for you to help you get the proper compensation you deserve.If you, or a loved one, have been injured because of surgical organ transplant errors, it’s important that you reach out to the medical malpractice specialists at Grover Lewis Johnson today to discuss your case.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels