South Carolina organ network tied to fatal blood-type error under investigation, pressure to improve

Gabrielle Masson - Print  | 

We Are Sharing Hope SC is facing three lawsuits after physicians unknowingly gave three patients organs with incompatible blood types, reports The Post and Courier.

On Nov. 28, 2018, medical teams in Charlotte, N.C., Charleston, S.C., and Nashville, Tenn., rushed to save the three patients. Two recipients — Ykeiah Lawrence and Joe Patterson — survived after second transplants, while Allen Holliman died at Charleston-based Medical University of South Carolina when he got the wrong lungs. 

Mr. Patterson, Ms. Lawrence and the wife of Mr. Holliman all filed lawsuits against North Charleston-based nonprofit We Are Sharing Hope SC. The lawsuits allege that the organization didn't complete the two required tests to confirm a donor's blood type before their organs were matched to patients and shipped. 

Ms. Lawrence's lawsuit also lists Charlotte-based Atrium Health — the system that operates the hospital where Ms. Lawrence was treated — as a defendant. The system declined comment, according to The Post and Courier.

Organ procurement organizations recover organs and distribute them to waiting patients; part of their job is to secure blood tests to make sure organs and patients match.  

In November 2020, CMS overhauled how success would be measured for these organizations, all of which are nonprofits that work under guaranteed regional monopolies. If every organization reaches the new goals, between 5,600 and 7,300 additional organ transplants could occur annually, according to CMS. Under the new federal rule, organizations with poor scores that don't show improvement by 2026 could lose their government contracts.

In December 2020, a U.S. House oversight committee launched an investigation into potential "poor performance, waste and mismanagement" at We Are Sharing Hope SC and 10 other similar organizations.

David DeStefano, president and CEO of We Are Sharing Hope SC, declined to comment on the pending lawsuits, according to The Post and Courier. However, Mr. DeStefano said he welcomes the new CMS metrics, and organizational improvements have been made since 2018. He said the nonprofit facilitated more donations in 2020 than any other year and is on track to meet the new goals.

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