Blood Bank Faces Lawsuit by Man Who Developed HIV Infection

An Alabama man has filed a lawsuit against LifeSouth Community Blood Centers, alleging that he developed an HIV infection after receiving tainted blood during surgery. 

The complaint was filed by Howard Midkiff, who tested positive for HIV after a blood transfusion while undergoing coronary bypass grafting surgery in October 2010 at Baptist Medical Center in Montgomery, Alabama.

According to allegations raised in the blood bank lawsuit, LifeSouth discovered the following May that HIV-contaminated blood had been collected the same month as Midkiff’s surgery and may have been distributed to Baptist Medical Center. The hospital was notified of the possibly HIV infected blood and Midkiff was tested.

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Midkiff accuses LifeSouth of negligence in providing HIV-tainted blood, as well as failing to design and/or implement reasonable screening and testing procedures that would have detected the tainted blood.

Baptist Medical officials have indicated that they believe Midkiff was the only patient to receive the HIV-contaminated blood.

“Every donor, every time is medically screened prior to donation and every unit of blood collected by LifeSouth undergoes nine separate tests to screen for infections disease, and those tests are the most thorough and exacting possible, meeting all federal and industry standards,” said LifeSouth General Counsel Kim Kinsell in a press release issued on May 15, in response to concerns raised by the lawsuit.

Kinsell indicated that testing for HIV is not perfect. While it is extremely rare, there is a small window of time between when a person is infected and when the antibodies begin to show in their blood stream where they could donate and the disease could go undetected. Estimates are that less than 1 in 1.9 million blood components that test negative for HIV are actually contaminated, Kinsell maintained.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that it takes most people two to eight weeks to develop detectable HIV antibodies after they become infected, with an average of 25 days. It is those antibodies that the tests look for. About three percent of those who become infected take longer than three months to develop the antibodies.

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