Failure To Diagnose HIV Results in $18.4M Medical Malpractice Award

A federal jury in Boston has awarded $18.4 million in a medical malpractice lawsuit filed over a failure to diagnose HIV, which delayed the plaintiff from getting proper treatment. 

The verdict comes after lengthy litigation involving a complaint (PDF) filed by Sean Stentiford in 2013, which pursued damages against Doctors Kinan Hreib and Stephen Southard, as well as Lahey Hospital and Medical Center, for failing to properly and timely diagnose his HIV status.

According to allegations presented at trial, the failure to diagnose HIV prevented Stentiford from getting treatment in time, leading to permanent physical and mental damage. As a result, Stentiford indicates that the resulting health problems ruined his career as an attorney and his health.

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In 2007, Stentiford went to the hospital and saw the doctors because he was suffering from facial paralysis and other symptoms indicative of HIV. His lifestyle also was considered high-risk. The lawsuit indicates that he consented to HIV testing, but claims that testing never occurred, because Hreib cancelled it.

Following an eight-day trial, the jury determined on Monday that Hreib and Southard were negligent, resulting in injuries to Stentiford that could have been avoided if he had been able to get treatment earlier. The jury also found that another doctor, infection disease specialist Daniel P. McQuillen, was also negligent, but did not contribute to Stentiford’s injuries.

The lawsuit indicates that Stentiford was gay, which, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, means he should have been screen for HIV every year. The lawsuit claims Lahey had that information in its records, which should have led the doctors to conduct the HIV testing, but Hreib allegedly indicated that he did not consider Stentiford as being in a higher risk category.

Lahey officials have said they intend to appeal the decision.


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