Blood Transfusions and Medical Malpractice

Blood Transfusions and Medical Malpractice

Blood transfusions are a necessary part of medical practice. In fact, 20 percent of people entering a hospital need blood. Over four million lives are saved each year as a result of blood transfusions. Sometimes, however, errors occur in the blood transfusion process, resulting in claims of medical malpractice.

Who can be held responsible for blood transfusion malpractice depends on the facts of a particular case. While blood transfusions are generally administered by non-physicians, physicians can be held vicariously liable for negligent transfusions if they improperly supervised or delegated the transfusion process. Likewise, a hospital can be held vicariously liable for the acts of its employees in improperly transfusing a patient.

Malpractice Due to Mismatched Blood

Transfusing the wrong type of blood can cause a patient to suffer serious injuries and even death. Before transfusing blood into a patient, hospital personnel must follow certain procedures to ensure that the transfusion will be safe for the patient. First, a blood sample must be taken from the patient. Then the sample is typed and screened to determine a donor blood match. Medical malpractice can occur if the blood is not properly typed and screened. Likewise, even if the blood is properly typed and screened, sometimes the wrong blood is inadvertently transfused into the patient. This type of error is also malpractice.

Malpractice Due to Improper Administration of Blood Products

While the administration of blood or blood products is a routine task for medical professionals, sometimes errors occur. Improper administration of blood or the administration of too much blood can cause serious injuries or death. Examples of blood transfusions that were negligently administered include the use of a needle that is too long, resulting in the blood entering the wrong space; use of a non-sterile needle, resulting in an infection; and improper insertion of the needle, resulting in nerve damage.

Malpractice Due to Administration of Infected Blood

Donated blood is thoroughly screened for infectious disease antibodies. If blood is improperly screened and infected blood is transfused into a patient, the patient has a medical malpractice claim. In an infected blood case, the plaintiff must determine the party responsible for the infected blood and/or demonstrate that the hospital or physician responsible for the blood transfusion either knew or should have known that the blood in question was infected.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.