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USC: Kidney Put in Wrong Patient by LA Hospital

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on February 22, 2011 8:48 AM

A lot can go wrong during a kidney transplant. The patient can seize on the table, bleed out, or reject the kidney. Even worse? The doctors can implant the wrong kidney. As USC University Hospital knows, it happens.

USC announced last week that it had temporarily halted kidney transplants after the wrong kidney was accidentally implanted into a patient last month. USC kidney transplants, however, may resume within the next week.

Apparently, there was a "process error," according to the Los Angeles Times. Two kidneys arrived at the hospital at the same time, and it is suggested that the USC kidney transplant team failed to catch the mix-up while going through the set of checks required before a transplant.

This may seem like a slam dunk medical malpractice case, but it might not be so easy to win. To prove that medical malpractice occurred, a plaintiff must show harm. At a news conference, the hospital announced that both recipients are currently doing well. The first USC kidney transplant recipient lucked out in that the kidney was an acceptable match. The facility found a kidney for the second patient in a matter of days.

Based on the university's assessment, no physical harm fell upon the victims. However, they still may have suffered from emotional anguish. Despite the lack of physical harm, California permits plaintiffs to recover on a theory of Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress.

For now, USC is refusing to answer questions about the "process error," but the state is investigating.

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