Experimental testing found the blood was infectious.
By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
VINDICATOR HEALTH WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A 47-year-old Boardman man has filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the American Red Cross and Forum Health, alleging he contracted hepatitis C from an infectious blood transfusion.
Matthew Estes, in his suit filed in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, said he received a tainted transfusion of fresh frozen plasma on April 24, 2001, during a partial leg amputation at Northside Medical Center.
Estes was notified that he "may have been exposed" to the hepatitis C virus (HCV) in a letter from the Forum Health Department of Pathology & amp; Laboratory Medicine to his doctor, dated March 11, 2002. The letter said that another donation from the donor of the blood plasma Estes received during surgery had tested positive for HCV.
Patient tests positive
Estes subsequently tested positive for HCV, said his attorney, Patrick Fire of Boardman.
The infectious plasma was supplied to Forum Health Northside Medical Center by the Red Cross' Northern Ohio Region, Fire said.
In his suit, Estes said he contracted HCV because the defendants were negligent in the testing, preparation, care and treatment of the blood products he received during his medical treatment. Other defendants are as yet unknown "John Doe" physicians and corporations.
Estes has demanded a jury trial. He is seeking judgments in excess of $25,000 for each of two counts: The first against the Red Cross and Forum Health; and the second against as yet unknown defendants.
Forum Health had no knowledge of the suit and would not comment, said Joanne McCliment, Forum's marketing and communications manager. Likewise, Karen Kelley, Red Cross communications and marketing director, said: "I have no knowledge of this lawsuit. But, even if I did, I would not be able to comment on any pending litigation."
Forum Health, in its letter to Estes' physician, Dr. Mark Hirko, said the blood Estes received was "tested and found to be nonreactive" for antibodies to HCV before shipment by the American Red Cross.
A subsequent sample -- collected 299 days after this donation -- from the same donor was included in an HIV-1/HCV Nucleic Acid Test research project to detect viral Rubonucleic acid (RNA) and underwent additional experimental testing that would otherwise not be performed.
"These tests were reactive for HCV. Your patient may have been exposed to HCV," the Forum Health letter said.
Facts about virus
Hepatitis C is a disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis damages liver cells and can cause the liver to become swollen and tender.
According to the national Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a chroniic HCV infection results in 75 to 85 percent of infected people; chronic liver disease afflicts 70 percent of chronically infected people; and deaths from chronic liver disease occur in 3 percent of those infected. CDC also sad hepatitis is the leading reason for liver transplants.