An Idaho Falls man has filed a federal lawsuit charging that he contracted AIDS from contaminated blood he received during heart surgery at Holy Cross Hospital in 1984.
Identified only as "John Doe," the plaintiff says in his suit that the hospital, the American Red Cross and five other unnamed defendants failed to perform blood and donor screening tests that might have prevented his exposure to the fatal disease.The plaintiff and his wife are seeking "in excess of $50,000" to cover present and future medical expenses, including the $1,200-per-month cost of the AIDS drug AZT.
According to the suit, Doe was diagnosed as having coronary artery disease, requiring him to undergo quadruple coronary bypass grafts on May 9, 1984. During the surgery, he received a transfusion of blood platelets provided by the Red Cross.
"It was later discovered in 1986 that the aforementioned platelets were obtained from a donor who was later found to be HTLV-III antibody (the orginal term for the AIDS virus) positive at the time of a subsequent donation," the suit said.
The American Red Cross discontinued its blood supply program in Utah in May 1986. Most of the state's blood needs are currently provided by IHC Blood Services, which has been testing donated blood for AIDS since an accurate test become available on March 15, 1985.
Geoff Wertzberger, director of Utah's Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control, said the state has had 12 cases of AIDS associated with the transfusion of blood or blood components. In addition, there have been 10 cases of AIDS associated with hemophilia or coagulant disorders, which require frequent blood transfusions, he said.
Nationally, 3,572 cases of AIDS have been linked to general blood transfusions and 1,344 to hemophilia transfusions. Wertzberger said most of those cases occurred before blood supply tests for the AIDS antibody became generally available in March 1984.
Doe said in his suit that the defendants "owed a duty of care to supply blood and blood components that were reasonably free from diseases which would cause serious bodily harm to the recipients of said blood and blood components."