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Former patient files suit against Northwestern Memorial for alleged HIV exposure

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Former patient files suit against Northwestern Memorial for alleged HIV exposure

Northwestern Memorial Hospital. A former patient filed suit alleging that hospital employees used a syringe during his surgery that had previously been used on a HIV-positive patient.

Northwestern Memorial Hospital. A former patient filed suit alleging that hospital employees used a syringe during his surgery that had previously been used on a HIV-positive patient.

Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

Northwestern Memorial Hospital. A former patient filed suit alleging that hospital employees used a syringe during his surgery that had previously been used on a HIV-positive patient.

Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

Northwestern Memorial Hospital. A former patient filed suit alleging that hospital employees used a syringe during his surgery that had previously been used on a HIV-positive patient.

Maddie Burakoff, Campus Editor

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A former patient filed suit Wednesday against Northwestern Memorial Hospital, alleging hospital personnel reused a syringe on him that had previously been used on an HIV-positive patient and concealed information regarding the mistake, according to a copy of the complaint obtained by The Daily.

In the complaint, filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, the plaintiff, “John Doe,” accuses Northwestern of three counts: reckless endangerment of patient, fraudulent concealment and medical battery.

Christopher King, a spokesman for Northwestern Medicine, declined to comment and told The Daily in an email that the hospital does not comment on pending litigation.

Doe had a hernia surgery performed at Northwestern Memorial on Jan. 31, 2017, and then had a corrective hernia surgery performed there Feb. 17, according to the complaint. During the second surgery, the complaint alleges employees administered Doe’s anesthesia using a syringe that had been used formerly on a different patient — one who had tested positive for HIV.

At this point, personnel drew blood from Doe without his knowledge to test for HIV, the complaint notes, but then destroyed the blood.

Doe was discharged soon after his surgery on Feb. 17, and it was not until his follow-up visit on Feb. 27 that he was told by Charles Hogue, chair of the Department of Anesthesiology, that the syringe had been reused. At this time, Hogue “intentionally” did not reveal the HIV status of the other patient, according to the complaint.

In a series of email exchanges with Sean Jones, executive assistant for the Department of Anesthesiology, and Jennifer Benton, a lawyer for Northwestern Memorial, Doe repeatedly requested information on the other patient, according to the complaint. Neither Jones nor Benton provided information regarding the other patient’s health information and HIV status, the complaint alleges.  

On March 22, Doe met with infectious disease specialist Teresa Zembower, who disclosed that the other patient had been HIV-positive. Zembower told Doe he should use a condom during sexual activity with his wife, according to the complaint.

That day, Doe went to the University of Chicago to seek treatment for exposure to HIV, and was told by a representative from the infectious disease department that it was too late for antiretroviral medicine to be effective, the complaint claims.

The complaint alleges that over the course of the alleged syringe reuse and information concealment, the hospital exhibited “reckless disregard for the safety of John Doe,” and as a result Doe sustained “physical and emotional injuries of a personal and pecuniary nature.”

Though the plaintiff has not contracted HIV, the alleged incident was still “life-changing” for John Doe in that it left him with “a complete lack of trust in physicians,” Doe’s attorney, Shawn Kasserman, told The Daily.

“As long as nothing gets done when something like this happens, if you just kind of let it go, sweep it under the rug, it’s going to happen again,” Kasserman said. “The things that I think both John Doe and my law firm are striving for is to make sure the hospital changes its policies, so that there’s mandatory and immediate disclosure to the patients when something like this happens.”

Email: madelineburakoff2020@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @madsburk

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