Leukaemia Victim Suffers Hepatitis E Virus After Being Given Contaminated Platelets

Specialist Lawyers Call For Improvements to Patient Safety After Defective Blood Product Delays Bone Marrow Transplant

16.06.2014

Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

A man whose potentially life-saving treatment for leukaemia was delayed when he contracted Hepatitis E from contaminated blood platelets during a transfusion has urged the NHS to implement readily-available tests to protect future patients.

Jamie McGee, 27, from Hampshire, was diagnosed at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester with leukaemia in November 2012 and was originally told he would be suitable for a bone marrow transplant once chemotherapy had put his leukaemia into remission.

However during the first part of his chemotherapy in December 2012 he was given contaminated blood platelets in a transfusion causing him to develop hepatitis E which needed to be treated fully before he could have the bone marrow transplant.

Jamie instructed specialist medical product liability lawyers at Irwin Mitchell who have since secured an out-of-court five-figure settlement from NHS Blood and Transplant to help cover the further pain and suffering and care he needed because of the extra treatments he required.

Experts at the law firm, together with Jamie, are now calling for the NHS to implement a readily available test which can check blood donations for Hepatitis E, but is not currently compulsory and not widely used.

Because of the defective blood transfusion, Jamie suffered:

  • A two-to-three month delay to his life-saving bone marrow transplant
  • An extra one week cycle of chemotherapy which had highly painful and unpleasant side effects to try and keep his leukaemia in remission during the delay
  • This extra cycle of chemotherapy led to a weakened immune system which caused him to contract a fungal infection causing extremely painful headaches and sinus problems and an extended hospital stay
  • He also needed to take Ribavirin medication for months which had unpleasant side effects such as disturbed sleep and sweating attacks
  • Psychological symptoms including shock, distress, anxiety and panic attacks
  • A continuing fear for his future physical health, in that he does not know and his doctors are unable to tell him whether his Hepatitis E will ever be totally eliminated from his body, or whether it will cause cirrhosis of his liver or other serious complications in the future.

Richard Holland, a product liability lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Jamie, said: “This whole situation has been a nightmare for Jamie and could have been prevented if blood tests for hepatitis E – which are readily available – were carried out as standard. We believe that the test should be made compulsory in the NHS to avoid any future similar incidents, particularly where the patient is immuno-suppressed, as Jamie was.

“In this case the blood was not tested for Hepatitis E but the risks have been known since 2004 and cost effective tests available since at least early 2012 which could eliminate blood contaminated with this virus from the system.

“Patient safety should be the number one priority but in this case Jamie was put at unnecessary risk of further illness because he was given blood that quite simply wasn’t fit for purpose. As well as continuing to battle leukaemia, he now has a constant fear hanging over him in relation to the hepatitis E which could potentially affect him for the rest of his life. ”

After chemotherapy in January 2013 Jamie was expecting to have a bone marrow transplant in March or April that year but because of the complications arising from contracting Hepatitis E, he needed further chemotherapy leaving him too weak for the transplant.

It was not until June 2013 that he was finally able to have the bone marrow transplant, at least two months later than he was originally advised, and he was still having to take Ribavirin, with its severe side effects until January this year.

Jamie said: “It was hard enough fighting leukaemia without being told that I had been given platelets from a known sufferer of Hepatitis E Virus and that I was now infected with hepatitis E myself.

“I was angry and distressed and had real problems with anxiety and panic attacks. You put your trust in the blood donor system but something obviously went wrong in my case and I was badly let down.

“It put back my bone marrow treatment because they had to wait until my blood was cleared of the hepatitis E before they would carry out the transplant. This was just devastating and I was very concerned about what might happen.

“To later find out that there is a test which could have been carried out to check the donated blood and platelets makes me wonder why it isn’t compulsory. I really hope that the NHS will consider implementing the blood test as I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I have.”

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