HEALTHY LIVING
09/21/2011 11:53 am ET | Updated Nov 21, 2011

Pittsburgh Couple Sue Hospital Over Hepatitis C-Infected Kidney Transplant

A Pittsburgh couple has sued the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center over a botched transplant involving a hepatitis C-infected kidney.

Michael Yocabet, who has diabetes and diabetes-related kidney disease, received a kidney from his life partner Christina Mecannic on April 6 this year after finding that the two are a match. But the couple said in the suit that there had been blood tests as early as January indicating that Mecannic was infected with hepatitis C before the transplant even took place; yet, it was allowed to continue on, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

Now, Yocabet has hepatitis C , too.

"When i first heard about it, like I said, I was blown away by it," Yocabet said in a video from the Post-Gazette. "I couldn't believe something like that could've really happened to me, you know. When I heard about it … I was angry for awhile."

The lawsuit also claims that after the hospital staff realized that the hepatitis C-infected kidney had been transplanted, they asked Mecannic if she had ever cheated on Yocabet, who she has been partnered with for the last 21 years (they have an 18-year-old son together). They also asked if she had ever done cocaine, and then they asked if she wanted to keep the whole news of the infection a secret from Yocabet, MSNBC reported. However, Mecannic said in the Post-Gazette video that she did not cheat or use drugs to contract the disease; rather, she believes she probably got it from the hospital she works at as a nurse.

Since the incident, UPMC closed its kidney and liver transplant centers for two months, and also took disciplinary action against a surgeon and a nurse, according to MSNBC.

With living organ donations, donors are screened for infections including hepatitis, HIV and syphilis, MSNBC reported. However, screening procedures can vary from transplant center to transplant center.

According to the Post-Gazette, UPMC said in a statement that there was no cover-up of the botched transplant, but rather that "once the error was discovered, UPMC disclosed the information to the patients involved and UNOS. We voluntarily suspended our live-donor program and have fully complied with all investigations. The well-being of our patients remains our highest priority."

The transplant programs resumed again in June, United Press International reported.

Hepatitis C is considered the most serious of all the hepatitis diseases, and is contracted by exposure to contaminated blood (the most common route of transmission is through sharing needles during drug use). The virus that causes hepatitis C attacks the liver and causes inflammation, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Symptoms of the disease are usually mild -- even flu-like -- and can cause nausea, fever, fatigue, muscle pain and tenderness in the liver area. But after many years of having the disease, complications can be serious, leading to cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure, the Mayo Clinic reported.

The lawsuit over the hepatitis C-infected kidney comes shortly after the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency and the University of Mississippi Medical Center were sued after parasite-infected kidneys were donated to two people.

One of the transplant recipients died three months after receiving the kidney in 2009, and the other is partially blind and says he is less healthy now than before the transplant, The Clarion Ledger reported.

And in 2009, a kidney transplant recipient contracted AIDS after it was discovered that his donor was infected with the disease. The kidney donor had unprotected gay sex between the time he tested negative for the disease, and the time of the surgery, the Associated Press reported.

Just today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released enhanced draft guidelines for organ transplantation. They call for more screening of donors and testing of donated organs to ensure minimal infection spread, particularly of HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

“Our first priority must be patient safety. These recommendations will save lives and reduce unintended disease in organ recipients,” Matthew J. Kuehnert, M.D., director of CDC’s Office of Blood, Organ, and Other Tissue Safety, said in a statement. “The guideline will help patients and their doctors have information they need to fully weigh risks and benefits of transplanting a particular organ.”

Between 2007 and 2010, the CDC conducted 200 investigations into potential transmission of HIV and hepatitis B and C due to organ transplants.

For more on the lawsuit involving the hepatitis C-infected kidney, WATCH this video from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

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