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New tool could assist in kidney transplant decision

Residents of Pittsburgh may remember the case of a man who was diagnosed with hepatitis C after receiving a kidney from his girlfriend. Neither was informed before the surgery took place that a blood test showed that the donor had the disease. As a result of the failure to disclose this information before the procedure, the couple sued individuals involved in the surgery as well as the hospital where the transplant took place for medical malpractice.

This is of course not the only time someone has received a kidney tainted with hepatitis C. Though tests for diseases such as hepatitis C are run prior to the transplant procedure, the results are not always accurate and could result in someone receiving a kidney that is actually tainted.

This situation exists for several reasons. In part it is due to the lack of available deceased-donor organs. Another factor is the health of the individual waiting for the new organ. It is not uncommon for the expected wait for an organ to be longer than an individual feels he or she has to live without a transplant. In some cases the wait is up to 10 years. Accordingly, an individual may decide to go forward with a kidney transplant even though there are questions regarding the health of the donor.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins have developed a tool that may make the decision easier to make. The tool, which is free and accessible online, uses math to help determine in which cases the odds of survival are better if they wait for an organ they definitively know is not infected with hepatitis C.

Whether a recipient of a kidney that is tainted with hepatitis C has grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit depends on the circumstances surrounding the transplant. Individuals who are unsure of how to proceed would probably benefit from talking with a lawyer who handles such cases.

Source: News Medical, "Johns Hopkins scientists create Web-based tool to help patients decide on kidney transplantation," April 11, 2013

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