Recipient of diseased donated organ later dies of rabies


Organ donation fulfills an important medical need, and donated organs have saved the lives of millions in New York and across the country. But organs are only life-saving if they are viable and free of infectious disease. If not, a donated organ can be lethal to the recipient.

It is up to organ procurement organizations to evaluate each organ donor’s suitability, and up to hospitals to confirm that an organ is both viable and disease-free before it is implanted. Negligence on the part of any healthcare professionals in this area can lead to deadly infections in patients.

Sadly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently confirmed that a patient in Maryland contracted and died of rabies as a result of a donated organ. In 2011, the organ donor became ill and was admitted to the hospital where he or she later died. The donor’s kidneys, heart and liver were donated to four recipients around the country.

Because rabies wasn’t suspected, doctors never tested for it. Almost a year after the patient in Maryland was implanted with an infected organ, the patient died of rabies. The CDC has confirmed that the donor and the recipient died from the same strain of rabies, and other recipients with organs from that donor are now being carefully monitored.

A case like this is rare, but it happens. And when it does, the results can be devastating or deadly. Any families who have lost a loved one because of an infection sustained during the course of medical treatment may wish to contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “CDC confirms rabies death in organ transplant recipient,” Mar. 15, 2013

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