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Lawsuit: Hawaii man HIV-positive after blood transfusion

By Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, Associated Press  |  Posted Feb 3rd, 2016 @ 7:21pm


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HONOLULU (AP) — A man's lawsuit against Blood Bank of Hawaii, the American Red Cross and others says that he became HIV-positive from a blood transfusion during bypass surgery in 2011.

In 2013, the man tested positive for HIV with AIDS, the lawsuit said. The blood bank and Red Cross provided blood-transfusion products to hospitals in Hawaii, including the one where he underwent surgery, the lawsuit said. Other unidentified corporations and agencies are defendants.

The defendants "failed, neglected, and/or refused to conduct a full and complete screening and testing of the blood that was transfused into" the man, according to the lawsuit, which was first filed in state court last year, but was transferred to federal court earlier this week at the Red Cross' request.

It's not clear which organization provided the blood, said the man's attorney, Peter Hsieh. "The law allows us to sue the suppliers that likely provided the blood," he said, adding that if it's determined where the blood came from, those not involved will be removed from the lawsuit.

American Red Cross spokeswoman Kara Lusk Dudley said in a statement that the organization's investigation has found that the claims against it have no merit.

"The safety of American Red Cross donors and recipients of blood products is our top priority," the statement said. "The Red Cross performs laboratory tests for multiple infectious disease markers, including HIV, on every unit of donated blood."

Attorneys will fully investigate the allegations, Blood Bank of Hawaii said in a statement.

"Safety of the blood supply is paramount and we work diligently each day towards zero-risk for all patients in need of blood," the statement said. "There is approximately a 1 in 2 million chance of contracting HIV through a blood transfusion. ... Nationally, there have been fewer than 10 cases of HIV being transmitted through a blood transfusion since 1999 with more than 20 million blood components being transfused and screened each year."

The statement said 13 tests— for infectious diseases including HIV— are performed on donated blood.

A hearing about the lawsuit is scheduled for March 31.

The Oahu man who is suing is identified in the lawsuit as John Doe. The lawsuit says divulging the name of the man and his family, who are all listed as plaintiffs, would subject them to public ridicule.

He's in his 50s and is a former hotel employee. His life now is "dismal," Hsieh said. "He hasn't been able to work. He's very sickly."

A blood test revealed he's HIV-positive. "He's 100 percent sure it came from the blood transfusion," Hsieh said.

These situations are very rare because of sensitive procedures, Dr. Lauren O'Brien, medical director of the transfusion service at Keck Hospital of the University of Southern California.

"It's so rare," she said. "If you need a transfusion you should get it. The risks now are so low."

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