Unsanitary Procedure at Children's Hospital...

by Amanda
(Cincinnati, OH)

My son had an abscess on his arm that was infected, so I took him to the children's hospital this past Sunday. He was being treated by a doctor who had his back facing me. The doctor made a noise and I didn't think much of it. Then he turned around and made a small surface cut on my son's abscess to allow it to heal properly.

A moment after he made the cut on my son's arm I looked down and saw blood on the doctor's palm. At that moment the doctor rushed out of the room. I was trying to process what had happened when I quickly received discharge papers.

All this seemed very odd so I told the discharge nurse what I thought. She brought the doctor back and a patient advocate. The doctor admitted to cutting himself by accident but said it wasn't a big deal because he wiped the knife off. He also said it was a non-sterile procedure so there was nothing to worry about.

This really doesn't seem right to me. Do you think it's unreasonable to ask him for a blood test? Is there any legal precedent to force the doctor to give it? Is there anything else I should do? Thanks.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Unsanitary Procedure at Children's Hospital...":

Amanda (Cincinnati, OH):

You raise a very interesting legal question. That is whether, as part of a patient's medical treatment, a circumstance arises wherein a doctor's blood may have inadvertently commingled with the patient's, and whether that patient then has a right to know if there exists the possibility the doctor's blood may have been:

A: Infected or tainted in some way, and

B: Whether that infection or taint was communicable at the time of the incident.

We went to the following site and found a relevant document. The document is called "Ohio's Medical Patients Rights':

http://ihcrp.georgetown.edu/privacy/stateguides/oh/oh.pdf

This document is an extension and amplification of the federal "HIPAA" law - the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Public Law 104-191, enacted on August 21, 1996.

Although we weren't able to immediately locate a section which pertained to the commingling of a patient's and doctor's blood, it would certainly not be inappropriate for you to require the doctor to submit to a blood test to make sure his or her blood wasn't tainted. You can put pressure on the hospital as well.

If you aren't satisfied with the response - and your aren't given specific assurance of the lack of tainted blood, then file a complaint with the Ohio Medical Board. You can find the manner in which to do so through the above-referenced web site. That site in part states:

• "File a complaint":

"You have the right to file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services if you believe your health care provider has violated your right to see, get a copy of, or amend your medical record. You can also file a complaint with the state agency that regulates your health care provider."

If all else fails, contact several personal injury attorneys. Most will not charge any fee for an initial office consultation. Make every attempt to locate an attorney with substantial experience in medical malpractice and HIPAA cases.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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