Taiwan probes HIV organ transplants

Updated: 2011-08-31 09:42


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TAIPEI - The Taipei prosecutors office Tuesday began probing a case in which local hospitals unknowingly used organs from an HIV-positive donor in five transplant surgeries.

Wang Wen-teh, a spokesman for the prosecutors office, confirmed to Xinhua that the case could be an indictable offense based on Article 11 of Taiwan's HIV Infection Control and Patients Right Protection Act, which requires medical institutions to conduct HIV tests before proceeding with any organ or tissue transplant.

The prosecutors office has asked relevant health authorities to provide all pertinent data and information they have regarding these transplant procedures as hospitals are obligated to inform health authorities of organ donation and transplant cases.

"We need to check the medical institutions' standard operating procedures (SOP) for organ donations and transplants," Wang said.

Prosecutor Lu Chun-jun, who also has an educational background in medicine, has been assigned to investigate the case.

If the transplant results in any of the organ recipients being infected with HIV, those involved in the case will be considered in violation of the law. If nobody becomes infected, the hospitals will only be fined, said Wang.

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

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 the Taiwan University Hospital.

Transplant team members at Taiwan University Hospital overheard a lab member on the phone saying 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.

Upon completing the transplant surgeries, medical staff pulled the donor's medical records and only then learned that he was HIV-positive.

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