Suit blames transfusion for AIDS virus Infected man lays blame on negligent blood screening

February 15, 1992|By Jonathan Bor | Jonathan Bor,Staff Writer

A 33-year-old man who claims he contracted the AIDS virus from a tainted transfusion is seeking at least $10 million in damages from Maryland General Hospital and the American Red Cross.

In lawsuits filed yesterday, the Baltimore man contends the defendants were negligent because the blood was not properly screened. The man said he caught the virus from a blood transfusion he received at Maryland General on May 7, 1985 -- two months after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved tests making it possible to identify and reject blood from infected donors.

"John Doe" is the name given to the plaintiff in briefs filed yesterday in Baltimore Circuit Court and the Superior Court of Washington. Attorney Howard Janet said his client did not want it widely known that he is infected with the virus.

Mr. Janet said the man has yet to develop the symptoms of acquired immune deficiency syndrome, which is fatal.

The man went to the hospital with a persistent nosebleed, and was given two units of blood to replace the blood he had lost, Mr. Janet said.

Mr. Janet said tests designed to screen out blood tainted with the AIDS virus were not shipped to the Red Cross laboratories in Baltimore until May 9 -- too late to have benefited his client.

The lawsuit alleges that the Red Cross should have screened the blood because it was possible to do so and that the hospital should not have used any blood that hadn't been screened.

Officials with Maryland General could not be reached for comment.

Linda Klein, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross, declined comment on the suit itself. But she said the agency, which supplies almost all the region's blood products, began using the tests "the instant that we could."

Since 1985, blood banks across the nation have routinely tested all donated blood for the presence of antibodies to the AIDS virus.

The man didn't know he was infected until he took a blood test in 1989 while attempting to re-enlist in the military, Mr. Janet said. The man was rejected because of his infection.

"The plaintiff has suffered the destruction of a normal existence and lives in fear," Mr. Janet said in court papers.

"He evaluates any ache, pain, headache, cold or cough as the beginning of symptoms of active AIDS."

Asked if his client had any other risk factors that could have predisposed him to the virus, Mr. Janet would say only that his own investigation had pinpointed the transfusion as the most likely source.

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