Alabama patient infected with HIV during transfusion

Published: May. 14, 2012 at 8:34 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 11, 2012 at 4:34 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WAFF) - A Montgomery firm filed a lawsuit on behalf of a man who received blood infected with HIV during a heart operation.

Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C., said as a result of receiving the HIV-positive blood, Howard Midkiff contracted HIV. As a results, they said he will have to take medication and treatment for the rest of his life. The lawsuit names LifeSouth Community Blood Centers as the defendant in this case.

The lawsuit alleges the blood contaminated with HIV was collected by LifeSouth in Dale County from "John Doe" on October 14, 2010. Midkiff was admitted to Baptist Medical Center in Montgomery on October 18th for coronary bypass grafting.

A spokeswoman for the Baptist Health hospital system says Midkiff is the only one believed to have been given blood from the infected donor.

During his surgery, the patient received a transfusion of blood and blood components provided by LifeSouth. In May, 2011, LifeShouth discovered the distributed blood products tested positive for HIV and notified Baptist Medical Center. After blood testing in June, 2011, Midkiff was diagnosed as being HIV-positive.

The lawsuit claims LifeSouth negligently provided blood infected with HIV, and negligently designed and/or failed to implement reasonable screening, handing and testing procedures that could have prevented the dissemination of blood contaminated with HIV.

MidKiff's wife is also listed as a plaintiff in the lawsuit. Their attorneys are seeking unspecified damages.

LifeSouth provides blood for 61 Alabama hospitals.

According to a report from MedPage Today, the Centers for Disease Control said approximately 20 HIV positive donors give blood in the U.S. each year. Blood bank data from the National Blood Collection and Utilization shows about 17 million units of blood were collected in 2008. Using those figures, the odds of this incident occurring are just over one in one million.

A loophole in testing could be to blame for the use of the infected blood. American Red Cross officials told the Washington Post the highly sensitive nucleic acid test used by blood banks will typically only detect an HIV infection in a donor if they have been infected for more than 12 days when they give blood.

However, if someone has been infected in less than 12 days before donating, the test may return an HIV negative result when they are actually HIV positive. The timing of the test could mean HIV positive donors slip through the cracks.

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