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Lawsuit Charges Blood Center With Deceptive Practices

Feb 12, 2002 | KMBC

A lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses the Community Blood Center of unlawful, deceptive and negligent practices in the treatment of a cancer patient, KMBC 9 News' Peggy Breit reported.

The case involves a procedure no longer done by the center. For a time, the blood center was extracting stem cells in the blood of cancer patients, freezing the stem cells, and then reintroducing the cells into the patient's bloodstream after the patient underwent chemotherapy and radiation, Breit reported.

The process was supposed to help patients recover more quickly, but the lawsuit alleges that the opposite happened.

The lawsuit was filed by a breast-cancer patient. Stem cells were harvested from her blood in March 1999, and then she had chemotherapy radiation.

The next month, she had an infusion of the stem cells. The woman developed significant complications, and she suffered dangerously low counts of platelets, red, and white blood cells, according to the lawsuit.

She required 55 transfusions, Breit reported.

The lawsuit alleges that the 55 transfusions were caused by illegal and fraudulent conduct on the part of the blood center and its former stem-cell lab director, Richard Meagher.

According to the suit, the blood center and Meagher used procedures that differed from standard procedures and which jeopardized the viability of the stem-cell product.

St. Luke's Hospital used the stem-cell services of the blood center until just over a year ago, Breit reported. St. Luke's then hired its own doctor to perform the service in-house.

Shortly after St. Luke's hired its own doctor, Meagher left the blood center for another job.

The blood center's medical director, Dr. Jay Menitove, said he has sympathy for any seriously ill patient, but he said he felt the lawsuit had no merit.

Despite the lawsuit's accusation of the blood center omitting, concealing, and suppressing important information about its stem-cell processing, Menitove said the blood center used proper procedures, Breit reported.

The lawsuit involves only one cancer patient, but a medical malpractice attorney said as many as 12 more lawsuits could be filed as soon as the end of the week.

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