Woman receives cancerous pancreas transplant and later dies

Organ transplants are miracles of modern medicine. Thousands of patients across the United States have a second chance at life each year when they receive a transplant. In Pittsburgh many people are saved each year because someone gave the gift of life when they passed away. But a tragic story has come to light regarding an organ transplant that went wrong and caused an unexpected death.

A family in Minnesota is grieving the loss of a young mother after the pancreas she received was found to have cancer. In 2007 the woman received the pancreas from a 15-year-old donor. The organization who procured the organ said that the organ donor had died from what was believed to be bacterial meningitis.

The transplant surgeon looked into the bacterial meningitis diagnosis because no specific cause for the meningitis was found. The surgeon found that the test for bacterial meningitis was negative but she believed it to be negative because the patient was given antibiotics before the test was taken. The surgeon then decided to use the organ. In reality, the patient was not given antibiotics before the spinal tap and a month after his death an autopsy revealed that he died from T-cell lymphoma. The transplant recipient’s doctors were notified and the pancreas was removed six days later but the cancer had already spread throughout her body and she died a few months later.

The family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the surgeon saying that she did not review the relevant medical documents regarding the donor’s death and didn’t follow up on a cause of death. The family also said that if she had not received the diseased pancreas she would have survived to obtain another healthy pancreas and would have been able to live through adulthood.

The tragic loss of a family member because of a doctor mistake is an unthinkable misfortune. When a doctor does not do due diligence patients can suffer. If a family believes their loved one suffered at the hands of a negligent physician they may want to speak with a legal professional skilled in medical malpractice. They can hold medical providers responsible and make sure they don’t harm anyone else.

Source: Star Tribune, “Malpractice lawsuit revived in case of woman given cancer-riddled pancreas,” David Chanen, Jan. 3, 2015