Organ transplants are used to give dying patients a second chance at life. However, sometimes the unthinkable occurs and transplant errors take lives. A transplant error in 2003 gained national attention and led to changes on how these surgeries are conducted.
In 2003, Duke University admitted that it used the incorrect organs during a heart and lung transplant surgery. The 17-year-old recipient sought treatment in the United States for a fatal heart condition. Doctors accidently transplanted her with organs from a donor of the wrong blood type. She had type O blood, but received organs from a type A donor. After the mistake was spotted by doctors, they attempted a second transplant. It was too late to correct the mistake, and the teenager passed away.
Donor organs must match the blood type of recipients. When blood types do not match, tissue and organ rejection can kill patients. This is also not the first time a transplant error has caused the death of a child patient. In 2003, doctors at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas conducted an organ transplant on a one-year-old patient in an attempt to fix a surgical error. Doctors had used a liver from donor of the wrong blood type and the patient died.
Are Transplant Errors Preventable?
These mistakes have led doctors at Duke University Hospital and elsewhere to establish protocols for preventing transplant errors. Duke University Hospital now double-checks blood types and organs before conducting transplants. The hospital also created several positions and teams for the purposes of monitoring and improving patient safety techniques.
Surgical checklists are also used at hospitals around the country to prevent these types of errors. Checklists help doctors double-check information before conducting operations.