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Patients claim they caught viruses from stolen body parts

Apr 29, 2006 |

At least a dozen people who had routine operations claim they caught deadly viruses and other germs from body parts stolen from corpses in a ghoulish scandal that has sent hundreds of people for tests.

The patients tested positive for germs that cause AIDS, hepatitis or syphilis after receiving tissue transplants, according to their lawyers and court records.

A New Jersey company, Biomedical Tissue Services, is accused of failing to gain consent to take bones, tendons, ligaments, skin and other tissue from cadavers.

At least 22 patients at Western North Carolina hospitals have received transplants of tissue that was recalled amid the Biomedical scandal.

On Friday, Mission Hospitals in Asheville and Haywood Regional Medical Center in Clyde said they have notified all patients involved and have not learned of any complications from the surgeries. They have not been warned they are the target of any lawsuits, according to Mission spokeswoman Merrell Gregory and Haywood Regional president David Rice.

Lawsuits have been filed for two Midwestern men, one in Nebraska and one in Ohio. Both claim they caught a hepatitis virus from the tissue implanted in back and spine operations a contention that lawyers acknowledge will be difficult to prove.

Lawyers for both men say they know of no other factors that would put their clients at risk for hepatitis.

“It pretty much turned my world upside down,” said one of the patients, Ned Jackson, 49, of Omaha, Neb.

The Associated Press talked to lawyers representing at least a dozen other clients who say medical tests show they have the AIDS or hepatitis virus or syphilis bacteria all of which can be acquired from infected tissue. Those suits have not yet been filed and the lawyers are continuing to investigate their claims.

So far, about two dozen lawsuits have been filed in federal courts across the country, most seeking class-action status for hundreds of people who were implanted with tissues that the U.S. government recalled.

About 1 million procedures a year involve implants of cadaver tissues.

The owner of Biomedical and three others have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

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