Blood Transfusion Error Claims
There are millions of blood transfusions given each year, and the majority are entirely safe and in many cases life saving. However when errors occur in blood transfusions, the physical and emotional impact can be severe and negligent treatment can result in you being eligible to make a claim for medical negligence compensation.
What are blood transfusions?
In basic terms, a blood transfusion is an injection of blood into a patient which has been previously taken from a healthy donor and stored. The donated blood is usually separated into red cells, platelets and plasma and these different components can be used to treat various conditions.
When performed correctly, as most blood transfusions are, this process can be a lifesaving and health altering treatment.
When is a blood transfusion needed?
Blood transfusions are most often associated with the need to replace lost blood following a serious accident, childbirth complications or during surgery. However, blood transfusions are widely used for people who are severely anaemic and those who have blood disorders such as sickle cell anaemia or thalassaemia.
Blood transfusions are also given to patients who have very low counts of platelets in their blood, a condition referred to as thrombocytopenia. This is often the case with patients who are undergoing treatment for cancer and whose platelet counts fall dramatically. Other conditions associated with low platelets include chronic liver disease, sepsis, cirrhosis and serious infections.
What errors can occur with blood transfusions?
Our national blood transfusion service is amongst the safest in the world, with exceptional standards maintained throughout all levels of blood supply chains. Staff in this field are amongst the best in the world and are highly trained and skilled in obtaining, storing and administering blood. However, as with all processes, an error can occur and in this field, mistakes can have severe consequences for patients.
There are many situations that may result in a blood transfusion error claim, but some of the most common mistakes include:
- A patient being given contaminated blood
- The wrong blood type being given to a patient
- Fluid overload
All of the above errors can have significant negative impacts on a patient, and may entitle them to receive compensation by making a successful clinical negligence claim.
Blood donors are all screened prior to donating blood to limit the risk of exposure to infection and disease. Once donated, all blood is then tested in a laboratory for blood infections such as HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. Once the blood is deemed safe, it is released into the system for use when needed.
Bloods must be stored in a sterile manner in order to maintain their safety for use. Blood which is stored, especially platelets, are susceptible to contamination and so it is imperative that medical staff are vigilant in their storage and handling methods.
If the blood is contaminated at any stage of this process and is then given to a patient, the patient can suffer severe illness, with symptoms similar to sepsis. If an infection is overlooked during screening or there are errors in the storage system, it may be possible to make a claim for compensation.
The Wrong Blood Type
A recipient’s blood must be tested immediately prior to being given a blood transfusion to ensure that the wrong blood type is not given. The patient will then wear a wristband which identifies their blood type, and this must also be checked before a transfusion of blood being administered. If either of these requirements is overlooked or completed with errors, the recipient may suffer significantly
The wrong blood type might also be given to a patient if the blood was labelled incorrectly at the laboratory. A patient who received the wrong blood type may naturally attack the blood cells, and this is known as haemolytic transfusion reaction (HTR). Symptoms of HTR include:
- Back pain
- Fainting or persistent dizziness
- Raised temperature
- Blood in the urine
- Flushed skin
This condition can have a major impact on the health of a blood transfusion error victim and can lead to acute kidney failure, lung and respiratory problems, anaemia and shock.
The symptoms of excess fluid include swelling in the body and difficulty breathing as well as general fatigue. This error can be avoided through assessing the individual patient and correctly determining the rate at which the transfusion should be administered.
How much compensation will I be awarded?
The amount of compensation that is awarded to you will be determined by the level of suffering that has been inflicted on you by the medical negligence error that has occurred. This includes the negative health implications caused by the mistake, as well as any financial losses you have incurred.
Financial losses often make up a significant portion of a successful claim, as it can include loss of earnings from having to take time off work, transport costs of going to and from medical appointments and many other losses that may be linked to your injury or illness.