President of Taiwanese hospital aplogises for HIV-infected transplants

National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) President Chen Ming-feng made his first public apology yesterday on behalf of the hospital's doctors responsible for transplanting HIV-infected organs to five patients in what has become the most shocking medical malpractice case in recent history.

Addressing a huge crowd of gathered press in front of the hospital yesterday morning, Chen admitted that the doctors "did not look at the HIV-positive donor's patient history or related documents."

The information was the result of a Department of Health (DOH)-enforced investigation on both NTUH and National Cheng Kung University Hospital, which has also been embroiled in the case.

Aside from the transplant recipients, the negligent behavior of the hospital doctors had increased the risk of HIV-infection of over 40 hospital staff members, Chen said.

Thankfully, investigations yesterday found the risk of said group contacting HIV was relatively low and did not require emergency anti-AIDS medication, he added.

As for who is ultimately responsible for the five donor recipients, Chen stressed that the finished investigative report will uncover the process and circumstances of the malpractice, evaluating everyone from medical assistants to surgeons.

The NTUH president said after the report is conclusive, the DOH will be in charge of determining and penalizing responsible parties. He apologized to the public for the hospital's misconduct.

The National Cheng Jung University Hospital investigative report was released by Lee Bo-chang, professor of surgery.

Lee said the report was still pending extensive review, as the hospital did not want the physical surgeon in charge to bear the brunt of all criticism.

The professor described the unidentified surgeon as an exceptional doctor, an industrious learner who sang in a choir in his school years. The surgeon possessed a pleasant demeanor and was very popular with patients.

Lee added that the HIV-scandal had traumatized him, causing him to seek counseling at within Cheng Kung Hospital.

The case has rocked the local medical industry and shaken up the public, with the breach all the more serious as the HIV-positive donor had legally listed his status in Taipei.

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.