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Health & Science

University Hospitals: Patient Received Kidney Intended for Someone Else

University Hospitals main campus
University Hospitals
University Hospitals officials are investigating what led to an error that resulted in a patient receiving a kidney intended for another.

Updated: 4:05 p.m., Tuesday, July 13, 2021 

Two University Hospitals (UH) caregivers are on administrative leave after a medical error resulted in a patient receiving a kidney intended for someone else, according to hospital officials.  

UH officials declined a request for an interview, but in a written statement said the patient who received the incorrect kidney is recovering, and the kidney was compatible. 

The surgery occurred July 2, UH spokesman George Stamatis said in the statement. The other patient’s transplant surgery has been delayed, he said.  

UH reported the error to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), which manages the national organ transplant system.  

"We are also carefully reviewing this situation to understand what led to the error and to ensure that such an event will never happen again," Stamatis said in the statement.  

The employees are on leave while UH officials investigate what led to the error, he said.  

UH officials would not identify the employees nor their positions at the hospital and gave no information about how the incident occurred.  

Heather Mekesa, chief operations officer at Lifebanc, a Northeast Ohio organ donation procurement network, said the transplant error at UH is unusual. 

“Something like this has never happened, in my recollection, in this area,” Mekesa said. 

In 2019 USA Today reported on a similar situation at hospital in Camden, New Jersey. In that case, the mix-up occurred because the patients had the same name and a similar age, officials said. The incident was reported to UNOS and the other patient received a transplant several days after, according to officials.  

But the patient at UH who was supposed to receive the kidney is still waiting, along with nearly 1,100 other people in Northeast Ohio, Mekesa said. 

“This is one isolated incident. It doesn’t take away from the fact of what the families are going through and that recipient is still waiting for an organ,” she said. “I would urge the community to think about that individual who is waiting.”   

Across the state, 2,700 people are on kidney transplant waiting lists, she added. 

Mekesa is concerned incidents like these might deter people from donating their organs. Kidneys are the most-needed organ transplant, she said. 

On average, individuals wait 3.6 years for a kidney transplant, according to the National Kidney Foundation, and 12 people die each day waiting for a transplant. Currently, 64,973 individuals nationwide are on the active waiting list for a transplant, UNOS reports.  

Read the full statement from UH below:  

"The University Hospitals Transplant Program is comprised of a highly qualified, multidisciplinary team of experts with decades of transplant care delivery and research experience. We are dismayed that an error recently occurred resulting in one patient receiving a kidney intended for another. The kidney is compatible and the patient is recovering as expected. Another patient’s transplant surgery has been delayed.  

We have notified the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the organization that manages the national organ transplant system. We are also carefully reviewing this situation to understand what led to the error and to ensure that such an event will never happen again. Two of our caregivers are on administrative leave pending the determinations of our investigation.   

We have offered our sincerest apologies to these patients and their families. We recognize they entrusted us with their care. The situation is entirely inconsistent with our commitment to helping patients return to health and live life to the fullest."  
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