TAIWAN - The National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) yesterday offered a public apology for mistakenly transplanting to five recipients the organs of an HIV-infected donor on Wednesday, putting them at a high risk of contracting AIDS.
Tan Ching-ding, a medical affairs secretary of NTUH, and Hung Chien-ching, a physician-in-charge at the hospital, expressed the apology at a press conference held yesterday evening after the exposure of the horrifying incident.
Tang said the hospital has offered emergency anti-AIDS medications to the five organ transplant recipients, and informed the Cabinet-level Department of Health (DOH) of the incident immediately after the hospital realized the mistake.
It marked the first time in Taiwan that organ transplants might lead to recipients falling victim to AIDS, a ranking DOH official said.
Shih Wen-yi, deputy director-general of the DOH's Centers for Disease Control, said that the NTUH has made it a regular practice to carry out HIV test on any organ donor before conducting organ transplant operation.
"We don't know at the moment what went wrong in this case, which has left five innocent organ recipients facing AIDS risks," Shih said.
No information has yet been released by NTUH on why the organs were not properly screened before use or when it actually discovered that the donor had HIV.
Shih said the hospital has apologized to the patients and their families as well as briefed them on the situation.
Meanwhile, Yao Ke-wu, director of the Bureau of Health of Hsinchu City, said yesterday that the donor was a legally listed HIV-carrier in Taipei, who sustained a serious head injury after accidentally falling from a high-rise building on Aug. 24.
As his condition was not promising, the 37-year-old's family took the initiative to contact NTUH to arrange the transfer of his organs, Yao said.
An NTUH transplant team rushed to the city's Nanmen Hospital to remove the man's organs and brought them to Taipei for transplant into five different patients, Yao said.
The man was tested HIV positive in Taipei and had received treatment there until July, when he was referred to Hsinchu City for continued treatment. The incident, he said, exposed a major loophole in the domestic organ transplant system.
The DOH has demanded that NTUH present a complete report on the incident in three days.
Shih Chong-liang, director general of the Bureau of Medical Affairs under the DOH, said that the DOH will move to investigate the incident and then determine what administrative punishment to be imposed on the NTUH.
On another front, in case any of the five organ transplant recipients are infected with HIV, the recipients can seek proper compensation from the NTUH in accordance with the AIDS Prevention and Control Act.
AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The infection destroys an individual's immune system and leads to some opportunistic infections or cancers, and eventually to death. The infection is thus considered the most serious worldwide health problem of the 20th century.