Clinicians at a New York hospital have been found not liable for the death of a 37-year old man who died from cancer and receiving a kidney from a woman who had uterine cancer. The donor was a 50-year old woman who had died of a stroke. The man had the transplant operation in February 2002. The following April, the patient’s doctors were informed that an autopsy revealed that the donor had undiagnosed uterine cancer. This was the first case of uterine cancer being transmitted by an organ donation, experts said.
The transplant recipient’s widow sued the hospital and testified that her husband was told that there was only a very slight risk that the kidney was affected by the cancer and that he was not urged to have the kidney removed. His transplant surgeon testified that he did encourage the patient to have the kidney removed, but the patient did not want to go back on dialysis and insisted on keeping the organ despite the surgeon’s advice that the safest plan was to remove it. Although the patient was monitored closely, tests did not reveal anything. However, he began suffering back pain and had the kidney removed about six months after the transplant. He died from cancer three weeks later. The patient’s widow alleged that the transplant surgeon had breached the standard of care by not pushing the patient to have the kidney removed as soon as the donor’s cancer was discovered. Two other patients also received organ transplants from the same donor and both died from cancer. These cases, however, resulted in monetary awards because the plaintiffs sued the hospital where the organs were harvested and the organ donation network responsible for arranging the donation.