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USC transplants kidney into wrong person

February 17, 2011 |  3:44 pm

USC University Hospital shut down its kidney transplant program last month after a kidney was accidentally transplanted into the wrong patient, according to a spokesman for the program that coordinates organ transplants in Los Angeles.

The patient escaped harm apparently because the mistake involved a kidney that happened to be a close enough match, said Bryan Stewart, a spokesman for One Legacy, which was notified of the error by the hospital.

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In a statement, the hospital confirmed that it had temporarily and voluntarily halted transplants Jan. 29 after a “process error” was discovered. The hospital did not detail the nature of the error and declined to answer questions. But it said that no patients were harmed.

A spokesman for the state Department of Public Health said the licensing agency was investigating. The hospital said transplants may resume as early as today, pending the conclusion of its own investigation.

“The hospital inactivated the program while clinical protocols are assessed and additional safeguards to the kidney transplant program are developed," the hospital’s statement said.

The hospital said it notified the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) on Feb. 4 that the kidney program had been halted.

The review of the program, includes "validation of a corrective action plan by a kidney transplant surgeon and transplant administrator from other transplant centers, and staff from the UNOS Department of Quality," the hospital said.

As of Feb. 11, USC had 508 patients waiting for kidneys, including 313 men and 195 women, according to UNOS, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services program that organizes the distribution of organs for transplant.

“The California Department of Public Health has an ongoing investigation at the University of Southern California’s hospitals, and we are unable to provide further information,” said spokesman Ralph Montano. The department licenses hospitals in California and investigates complaints from patients, workers and members of the public, as well as certain significant incidents that hospitals are required to report. Montano could not say when or how the USC investigation began.


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-- Lisa Girion