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Mislabeled blood sample leads to search for HIV-positive patient

National military hospital Walter Reed Medical Center is seeking to identify a patient who was treated there and tested for HIV who they erroneously informed of a negative test result. The patient is in face HIV-positive but is unaware of this fact because of mislabeled and mishandled blood samples.

An expert on this issue told reporters that the incident raises a lot of questions about the hospital’s procedures and should raise serious concerns about whether this had happened in the past but had not been caught. Hospitals should have strict policies with various levels of security to ensure that things like this do not happen and that blood samples are handled properly.

Errors in processing blood samples can have life-threatening results, as this case illustrates. And in the situation of contagious disease, many more lives could be threatened by this hospital’s negligent handling of the blood samples.

The hospital has been searching for the HIV-positive person since November and so far as not identified them. In the interim, the person could be unknowingly spreading the deadly disease to others and possibly suffering from health issues as a result of their lack of treatment. The hospital will certainly be liable for any injuries that occur as a result of this egregious error.

The hospital released a statement about the case saying that they are remaining transparent about the errors and the process of trying to fix the mistake. They are investigating the matter and trying to determine how the mistake was made. The hospital does not believe that any similar mistakes have been made since at least 2011.

Source: New York Times, “H.I.V.-Positive Person, Told Otherwise, Is Being Sought,” Sharon LaFraniere, Jan. 15, 2014. 

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Alan D. Bell
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