Florida: Lawyers Lay Out Course for HIV Lawsuit
July 25, 2002
Lawyers planning to sue Florida Blood Services (FBS) over an HIV infection released more details Wednesday about their client and their legal strategy. The lawsuit to be filed in Hillsborough County will allege that a Pinellas County man, age 24, was negligently infected by tainted blood during abdominal surgery at Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital in Tarpon Springs. The man also plans to sue the hospital.Adapted from:
Attorney Hank Uiterwyk told reporters in his Tampa office that the suit will allege: the blood donor was improperly screened; the blood was mishandled; testing was insufficient; and the client was not warned adequately of the risk. Uiterwyk cited a two-year-old Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) article that will be part of his strategy. It calls into question blood-testing methods used by FBS and almost every other blood bank in the nation.
The donor gave blood in March, days after being infected with HIV and before the virus in the blood had built up sufficiently to register on tests. FBS tests blood by blending 16 samples together in one batch. This saves money and is the standard procedure recommended by the test kit manufacturer and the Food and Drug Administration. The JAMA study noted that fewer early infection blood donations slip by undetected if each blood sample is tested individually.
But FBS had no choice, said Vice President J.B. Gaskins. When the donor's blood was tested in March, the blood bank was part of a nationwide clinical trial designed to find the best test. The FDA required the batch tests, Gaskins said. Even with batch tests, the odds of HIV infection through transfusion are 2 million to one, or higher.
FBS officials earlier said they reviewed their records and found no mishandling of the donor's blood or of the screening questions. The donor did not know he or she was infected. Uiterwyk would not identify his client or the man's six-month-old son, also a plaintiff. The man's fiancée is not infected. One other person, age 60, was also infected by the blood.
St. Petersburg Times
07.25.02; Stephen Nohlgren
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.