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Couple Sues Children’s Hospital Over Loss of Stem Cells


A California couple has filed a lawsuit against L.A. Children’s hospital after an alleged freezer malfunction resulted in the loss of stem cells for some 56 patients. Their son was among the patients whose stem cells were lost in the freezer malfunction.

The hospital apologized for the lapse and ensured frightened parents that none of their patients would experience any negative impact from the problem. Nonetheless, the parents of one child, identified as E.F. who suffers from neuroblastoma says that the loss of the stem cells could jeopardize his life.

The complaint alleges negligence, medical malpractice, and breach of contract.

Taking a Look at the Freezer 

In a case like this, you would expect that the company that allegedly manufactured the freezer to also be named as a defendant in the lawsuit. But in this case, the plaintiffs are alleging that the freezer was old and that’s why it malfunctioned. They said that hospital officials deliberately turned off alarms that would warn staff if the freezer was beginning to fail. The alarms were related to temperature sensors.

The hospital issued a statement saying that the freezer was replaced and everything was upgraded. They also offered to re-harvest the stem cells free of charge. But the stem cells are best harvested during the early course of treatment for potential future use.

Understanding the Role of Stem Cells 

Children who suffer from early childhood cancer often need bone-marrow transplants somewhere along the way to reboot their immune system. The bone-marrow can either come from a close relative or a compatible donor. However, having the patient’s own stem cells is a luxury that most who require a bone-marrow transplant do not have.

Neuroblastoma is among the types of cancer treatments for which doctors will harvest stem cells. Neuroblastoma attacks stem cells turning them into cancerous stem cells with bad DNA. Stem cell transplantation is part of the cornucopia of therapies that doctors use to treat neuroblastoma. Chemotherapy and radiation often destroy healthy stem cells in the body, so those stem cells are replaced using the patient’s own stem cells.

Healthy stem cells collected from the child’s blood are used to replace destroyed or cancerous stem cells in their body. Without these stem cells, the child may need a donor or they may have to go without stem cell therapy entirely if new stem cells cannot be harvested from his body.

So the reason why the parents are so concerned is that, if their child gets a high dose of chemotherapy, they may not have any stem cells left to repopulate their bone marrow. This could potentially put them at risk for falling prey to an opportunistic infection and dying of an otherwise preventable complication.

Talk to a St. Petersburg Medical Malpractice Attorney 

If you or a loved one has been mistreated by a medical doctor, call the St. Petersburg medical malpractice attorney at Masterson & Hoag, P.A. today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help you recover damages related to your injuries.




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