Team head resigns over HIV+ organ transplants

Updated: 2011-09-02 06:40


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TAIPEI - The head of an organ transplant task force at Taiwan University Hospital has resigned, taking responsibility for the hospital's recent HIV-positive organ transplant accident.

Ko Wen-tse was responsible for forming and managing the hospital's organ transplant task force and also wrote the guidelines for the hospital's transplant team.

The team relied on information relayed by their organ transplant coordinator over the phone during which a misunderstanding occurred. The team also failed to confirm the donor's HIV test results on the computer before transplanting organs from an HIV-positive donor into four patients, according to local media reports.

The medical accident occurred on August 24 when the transplant team of Taiwan University Hospital removed organs from a person who had been pronounced brain-dead at Hsinchu's Nanmen Hospital.

His heart went to a patient at the Cheng Kung University Hospital while his liver, a lung, and two kidneys were delivered to four recipients waiting at Taiwan University Hospital.

Transplant team members at Taiwan University Hospital heard the coordinator on the phone say the test results were non-reactive, and proceeded to perform four transplant procedures.

The Cheng Kung University Hospital took the Taiwan University Hospital transplant team's word that the organs were non-reactive and went ahead with the heart transplant.

After completing the transplant surgeries, medical staff examined the donor's medical records and only then learned that he had been HIV-positive.

This accident marks the first time that organ transplants might lead to recipients contracting AIDS in Taiwan.

The Taipei prosecutors office has begun probing the case.


Taiwan University Hospital Thursday issued a statement, saying that the four recipients involved in the HIV-positive organ transplant accident were all currently in stable condition and the hospital was providing necessary medical treatment and care to the four patients.

The organ recipients' relatives are facing huge pressure, as the identities and health conditions of the four recipients were given too much attention, said the statement.

It is hoped that organ recipients' privacy as well as the privacy of their family members could be respected by all social circles, so that patients can peacefully receive medical treatment and family members can take care of patients wholeheartedly, said the statement.

On August 27, the Taiwan University Hospital admitted that its medical team did not follow standard operating procedures in carrying out the organ transplants on August 24.

Taiwan's health authorities on Wednesday launched a spot check of the hospital and ordered the hospital to make improvements in various aspects of its organ transplant procedures, including establishing a warning mechanism for major hospital tests and enhancing staff training.

Members of the Taiwan University Hospital's organ transplant team have been required to speak in Chinese when discussing HIV-test results, according to a recent decision made by the hospital, so as to prevent medical mistakes from occurring again.

HIV test results are usually written in English, not Chinese, leading to the telephone confusion between the Chinese-speaking organ transplant coordinator and organ transplant team which resulted in the HIV-positive, or reactive, organs being cleared for transplant.