How Often Do Organ Transplant Errors Occur?


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In 2022, over 42,800 organ transplants were performed in the United States. Many people wait for months or even years before receiving their transplant, and the call that a suitable organ has been found is usually cause for excitement and joy for the patient and their family. But when a doctor, hospital, or surgeon makes an error during an organ transplant, it can cause the transplant to be rejected, leading to catastrophic injury or death.

What Should Happen When An Organ Transplant Is Done Properly?

Survival may depend upon an organ transplant when an organ becomes diseased or damaged. Typically, patients are placed on a waiting list until a compatible organ becomes available for donation. Once an organ is found and its recipient is notified, it is quickly preserved and transported to the hospital, where the transplant will be performed. The preservation and transportation process must be as quick as possible, as organs are typically only viable temporarily. For example, kidneys remain viable for 24 to 36 hours after being removed from the donor, and hearts only stay viable for 4 to 5 hours, even under the best conditions.

The transplant procedure itself can take hours, and there is often a lengthy recovery period. Monitoring ensures that the body accepts the organ, and the organ recipient usually requires immunosuppressant drugs for the remainder of their life to ensure that their body does not reject the organ.

How Common Are Transplant Errors?

Like with any surgical procedure, organ transplantation isn’t without risk. Transplants are complex surgeries with lots of potential for something to go wrong, and organ rejection is possible even if doctors do everything right. However, a lapse of judgment, failure to double-check information, and rushing through safety checks or the procedure itself can all result in severe harm or death.

Between 2010 and 2020, there were more than 1,100 complaints filed by patients, families, hospital staff, and transplant centers. The nature of these complaints ranged from failing to complete critical tests for blood type, disease, or infection to organs being lost or abandoned during transit from the donor to the recipient.

How Do Organ Transplant Errors Occur?

There are several ways in which an error during the organ transplant process can cause harm. Potential sources of error include:

  • blood-type incompatibility
  • diseased or damaged organs
  • organ rejection
  • surgical/anesthesia errors
  • infection
  • delay in organ transportation
  • post-transplant errors

Many of these problems can easily be caught by double-checking for compatibility before the transplant occurs and by having redundancies in place to ensure that errors are caught before they cause serious problems. Failure to screen donors for disease or ignoring results after those tests have been completed are serious instances of medical negligence and can have devastating consequences, even wrongful death.

Organs from cancer patients have been known to cause cancer in the recipient, and there have been many cases of infections like HIV being spread from donors to organ recipients.

How Can You Know If A Catastrophic Injury Or Death Resulted From Malpractice?

If a doctor or other hospital staff fails to follow the standard of care during an organ transplant, their negligence could be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Whether you contracted a devastating disease because your donor wasn’t screened, or your loved one’s donated organ was rejected because the hospital failed to start antirejection medications soon enough, you and your family may be entitled to compensation.

If a doctor or healthcare system could have prevented death or serious injury by following generally accepted medical standards, then they should pay for their negligence. Look for a law firm that specializes in medical malpractice and has a history of winning cases like yours.

Why Choose Ross Feller Casey?

If an organ transplant has left you seriously injured or if a loved one died during or after transplant surgery, we’re here to help. Ross Feller Casey, one of the nation’s leading medical malpractice law firms, has won more than $3 billion, including hundreds of multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements for our clients. We’re uniquely qualified to litigate the most complex medical malpractice lawsuits throughout Pennsylvania, in part because we have a team of Ivy League-trained physicians on staff.

Our doctors and lawyers will work together on your case to determine whether malpractice occurred and how much compensation you’re entitled to. Generally, Pennsylvania law only gives you two years from the date of the malpractice to file a lawsuit, so contact us today for a free consultation. We handle all of our cases, including those involving organ transplant malpractice, on a contingency basis. That means you will not be asked to pay anything until a financial recovery is made in your case.

Disclaimer: Ross Feller Casey, LLP provides legal advice only after an attorney-client relationship is formed. Our website is an introduction to the firm and does not create a relationship between our attorneys and clients. An attorney-client relationship is formed only after a written agreement is signed by the client and the firm. Because every case is unique, the description of awards and summary of cases successfully handled are not intended to imply or guarantee that same success in other cases. Ross Feller Casey, LLP represents catastrophically injured persons and their families in injury and wrongful death cases, providing legal representation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.