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Woman contracts cancer from diseased transplant organ

Medical malpractice claims arise when a nurse, doctor or other healthcare professional acts negligently and causes injury to a patient. In some cases, medical malpractice will involve misdiagnosis or a surgical injury. In a recent case, a woman is filing a malpractice claim after she contracted cancer from a diseased organ. The case sheds light on doctor and hospital responsibility for screening organ donors before transplant in Connecticut and nationwide.

Similar to a blood transfusion, a bad organ can cause serious injury to a patient if that organ is infected with HIV, an infectious disease, or in this case cancer. In a lawsuit filed earlier this month, a woman has claimed that the pancreas she received from the University of Chicago Medical Center was cancerous. While the lawsuit does not state why she needed the organ, it does indicate that she now has cancer as a result of the 2008 transplant.

According to the lawsuit, the doctor who performed the transplant acted carelessly and negligently by giving her a diseased organ. Doctors involved with the transplant have claimed that while any organ transplant is a risk, contracting cancer from an organ is extremely rare. In a 2002 study, only 21 of more than 108,000 organ transplants. Despite the low risk, organ donors are screened for disease.

Results of this case will depend on whether a jury finds that the doctors acted negligently or failed to meet a standard of care in screening the organs. According to reports, there is often not a significant period of time between when the donor dies and when the transplant is made, so the testing for cancer is inconclusive.

In any surgical case, doctors must meet professional standards of care. If the doctor and hospital were negligent, they may be held liable for malpractice.

Source: Chicago Sun Times, "Woman files lawsuit charging transplanted organ was cancerous," Kim Janssen, July 10, 2012.

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