Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Law Blog

Wrong Lung Transplant

Posted by Briggs Bedigian | Nov 12, 2020 | 0 Comments

Allen Holliman was waiting for lung donations to accomplish a double-lung transplant to prolong his life. The South Carolina man finally received word that donor lungs that matched his blood type were available and he was scheduled for surgery. On November 27, 2018, Holliman underwent double-lung transplant surgery at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston.

Holliman was diagnosed with severe emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis. Pulmonary fibrosis is a scarring of the lung tissue, which reduces lung capacity and causes shortness of breath. After years of relying on supplemental oxygen, Holliman needed a lung transplant to sustain his life. 

Shortly after surgery, Holliman began having complications and was still in critical condition. According to a lawsuit filed by the family, Holliman's body was rejecting the donor lungs. Instead of a matching pair of lungs, the donor lungs were type A and Holliman had type O blood. Holliman died the next day. 

How could the donor match have been so wrong? The organization which arranged the donor organs was supposed to test the donor's blood samples with two separate blood draws at different times. However, the blood tests for the final pre-transplanting test report showed the blood type as “indeterminate.”

The organization that handled the organ donation, and many organ donations in South Carolina is We Are Sharing Hope SC. It is one of more than 50 organ procurement organizations in the U.S. According to the lawsuit, there was at least one other mixup involving the same donor's organs which seriously injured the patient who received the wrong type of liver. 

Wrong Site and Wrong Patient Surgeries

Some of the most frightening medical errors include problems with operating on the wrong patient or the wrong part of the patient's body. It may seem like something out of a nightmare when a patient goes under anesthesia to have their right leg amputated to wake up and find their left leg gone instead. Unfortunately, this has actually happened to patients in the U.S.

Wrong patient surgery involves a mistake where the records, charts, or patients are mixed up and the individual operated on is treated for another person's conditions. Even though the medical industry terms these “never events,” they are more common than they should be. According to one study, doctors in Colorado had performed at least 25 wrong patient surgeries over the course of 6 ½ years. 

Wrong site surgery can involve a similar mix-up, with conflicting sides of the body in the medical record or transcribing the incorrect body part during pre-surgery. Over a 13 year period, the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) recorded 2,217 wrong site surgical procedures. However, this number may be under-representative because reporting to the NPDB is voluntary. 

Wrong Patient, Wrong Organ, or Wrong Site 

Mixing up the patient or body part is a serious error that is almost always avoidable. If you or a family member was injured because of medical negligence, speak with a medical malpractice attorney for answers. To discuss your case with a member of our legal team, fill out an online case evaluation form or call (800) 529-6162 today. 

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm's litigation practice.  Briggs' legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 

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