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Platelet Contamination Deaths Questioned By Activist Group

The Washington Post reported last week on a new call by the activist group Public Citizen to investigate the deaths of two medical patients following a contaminated transfusion at the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) research hospital. The plea was made to the U.S. Secretaries of Defense and Health & Human Services after two patients were killed when the blood platelet transfusions that they received were contaminated with bacteria. The infections ultimately led the victims to suffer the failure of multiple organs-both victims were cancer patients. Mere hours after receiving the contaminated platelet transfusions both patients were reportedly gravely ill. One patient died about four weeks after the transfusion, while the other died two weeks after the first.

The advocacy group believes that the deaths were preventable. The organization stated that the blood bank which collected the donations were at fault for lapses in procedure which allowed the contaminated platelets to be given to the patients. Both victims had been part of clinical research that was being undertaken at the NIH hospital. Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys were saddened, but not shocked, to learn that the contamination was only brought to light after whistle blowing physician who remained anonymous informed that public advocacy group of the problem.

This case is a good demonstration of the basic accountability challenge which guides medical malpractice lawsuits. Many victims of malpractice never ultimately know that they have been victimized. That is because the complexities of so many medical issues are left to the physician. When the one who is suppose to be the expert fails to act as an expert should, that failure often goes unnoticed by the victim. When the professional does not come forward and admit a mistake, then the patient often unwittingly assumes that the adverse consequence was simply a risk that could arise because of the medical condition.

Our Chicago personal injury lawyers, however, know that there is a big difference between a harm caused by the natural risks of a medical condition and the harm caused by medical negligence. Sometimes the case is clearly the product of a medical error-such as in this case where contaminated blood was given to patients. This represents the clearest example of malpractice, because the patients were specifically given something that caused their health to deteriorate. However, most medical malpractice cases are not like this. In most cases, the harm the patient suffers was not connected so obviously to the doctor. Instead, often the doctor either could have prevented the harm had appropriate care been taken. In these situations the harm caused by the medical malpractice is just as severe, but it is harder for the victim to catch. The complexity of these situations makes it helpful for all those who suspect they were victimized to at least take the time to visit with a legal professional. You may learn that your situation does not give rise to a legal action, or the attorney may suggest that a lawsuit be filed. In either case, however, there is nothing to lose from learning more.

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