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Doctors involved in HIV organ transplant cases not to be disciplined

2012/06/28 19:05:37

Taipei, June 28 (CNA) Nine doctors involved in HIV-positive organ transplant cases last August will not be disciplined since the cases were a result of systematic procedural flaws at the hospital, said Taipei City's Department of Health Thursday.

On June 11, the department's doctor disciplinary committee discussed whether physicians at National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) should be considered negligent and disciplined for causing irreparable damage to the patients involved, said Chiang Yu-mei, the department's secretary-general.

The committee concluded the doctors' actions had not breached disciplinary regulations and the transplantation of infected organs was a result of flaws in the hospital's checking procedures, explained Chiang at a press conference.

The nine doctors involved include members of the hospital's organ transplant team and Ko Wen-che, director of the Department of Traumatology, who was the head of the hospital's organ transplant task force at the time.

On August 24, 2011, NTUH medical staff accidentally transplanted an HIV patient's organs into five patients after staff misread the Hsinchu County individual's blood test results.

Chiang pointed out prosecutors were still investigating whether any professional negligence was involved in the case, and that the committee will schedule new discussions if any new evidence was found.

The Taipei District Prosecutors Office pointed out at a separate press conference that prosecutors have questioned Ko and other medical staff involved in the case.

Since the organ recipients are undergoing observation periods, prosecutors have been in frequent contact with the Centers for Disease Control to gain a better understanding about their current state of health, the office said.

As the cases violate article 11 of the HIV Infection Control and Patient Rights Protection Act that stipulates HIV/AIDS tests must be conducted prior to the donation or transplantation of organs, the case is a prosecutable offense, the office noted.

Under article 22 of the act, people that violate article 11 can be fined between NT$30,000 (US$1,000) and NT$150,000 or imprisoned for three to 10 years for causing HIV infections in others.

Prosecutors pointed out that the key issue is whether any of the organ recipients become infected with HIV. However, they added, there are still administrative penalties even if the recipients do not become infected.

(By Liu Shi-yi and C.J. Lin)