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Death of plasma donor is under investigation

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 7 2003 10:52 a.m. MDT

The death of a young woman on the same day she sold blood plasma has left her family wondering if those two events were related.

Many eyes were drawn to the picture of the pretty young blonde that accompanied her obituary in the newspaper Tuesday. Michelle Sue Hopkins Waddell was 20 years old when she died on Sept. 25 "from unexpected complications as a blood donor," the obituary said.

But it will take an autopsy to decide how she died. And those results are probably weeks away because of a backlog in the medical examiner's office and the state lab, said Jana Kettering, Department of Health spokeswoman.

The Food and Drug Administration will also look at the autopsy, part of a routine investigation, said an FDA spokesman, because questions have been raised about whether the plasma donation contributed to her death.

An autopsy is required by law whenever a death is unattended or unexplained, Kettering said.

Waddell didn't donate blood but reportedly sold the liquid part of blood, plasma, to ZLB Plasma Services in South Salt Lake earlier in the day. She reportedly became ill in a grocery store parking lot and was examined by emergency medical technicians but declined an ambulance ride to the hospital. Her husband took her to St. Mark's Hospital.

Because of federal privacy laws, said hospital spokeswoman Deb Reiner, St. Mark's can't comment on Waddell's care. But every patient who came into the emergency department that day was "either treated or left against medical advice and signed an affidavit" to that effect, Reiner said.

Apparently, the latter group included Waddell.

Later that night, she died in her bed.


E-mail: lois@desnews.com

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