AboutLawsuits reported last week on a pair of medical malpractice lawsuits that have been filed by the family of two individuals who received organ transplants. The survivors of both victims explained in their complaints that their loved ones received kidney transplants from the state’s Organ Recovery Agency with operation’s being performed at an area medical center. Both the agency and the medical center are named defendants in each lawsuit. The families allege that their loved ones received kidneys via transplant that were infected with parasites that caused the patients to develop encephalitis. The medical condition is an irritation and inflammation of the brain that is caused by infection. It is rare infection that destroys nerve cells, can cause bleeding on the brain, may lead to brain damage, and can even be fatal.
The first victim died in February of this year after developing encephalitis. According to documents filed in the second medical malpractice suit, that victims survived the bout with encephalitis, however she is now blind and will require close care for the rest of her life. Investigations into the cause of both developments of the rare condition led back to the kidneys that the two victims received which came from the same donor. The complaints allege that the donor had received encephalitis and the kidneys were infected at the time that the donation was made. The suit claims that the facilities which were involved in the transplant should have caught the problem and prevented the infected kidneys from being transplanted into the victims. The cases have been consolidated for discovery purposes but will likely be bifurcated again for the trials which are expected to commence next year.
Our Illinois medical malpractice attorneys know that these types of cases are illustrative of an important principle in medical malpractice. To succeed in one of these civil suits, a plaintiff must prove several elements: duty, breach, causation, injury. Causation is often the most complex element to prove. In many cases-including this one-defendants will usually try to claim that alternative causes are what led to the injury that the victims suffered. For example, in one of these cases, the medical center filed an answer which suggested that victim died from previous medical complications and not anything resulting from the kidney transplant. In this way, the medical center could essentially admit that it owed a duty to the victim, that the duty was breached by the failure to catch the infection, and that the client suffered injury. However, they can still avoid liability if they defeat the causation element and convince a jury or judge that the injury itself was not foreseeably caused by the specific breach/mistake in question.
Usually complex and detailed investigations on the part of experienced attorneys in this area are required to build up a case to prove the causation element of the claim. Interviews with involved parties, consultation with expert witnesses, analysis of medical records, and similar actions are required so that evidence is available to show the court exactly how the specific mistake caused the injury which was suffered.
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