It’s Business, And It’s Personal

Was rabies infected North Carolina organ donor a wrongful death?

On Behalf of | Mar 21, 2013 | Medical Malpractice |

Death is often an unwelcome and unexpected part of life. It is a common denominator between people living in North Carolina and people all over the world. This truth is evidenced by the fact that one family in North Carolina is now facing the reality that a loved one’s generous organ donation may have resulted in another man’s wrongful death. Not only that, information published in news reports alluded to the fact that the donor’s passing could have resulted from wrongful death in and of itself.

A 20-year-old Air Force mechanic, who had been a part of the Air Force for a mere 17 weeks before to his death, had become an organ donor sometime prior. The airman visited a clinic at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, complaining of abdominal pain and vomiting. Four days later, he was transferred to a civilian hospital where he developed encephalitis and eventually passed away.

The young man’s family members were told that he had died of food poisoning or an intestinal virus. The Florida Department of Health said his cause of death was encephalitis. He was never tested for rabies, despite the fact that he was an avid outdoorsman and he was suffering from encephalitis – one of the symptoms of rabies.

After his death, four people received his organs. None of the organs were tested for rabies. The man who received one of the airman’s kidneys lost his life as a result of a rabies infection.

It is plausible both the passing of the airman and his organ recipient could be viewed as wrongful death. Simple rabies testing may have prevented death on both accounts. And while nothing can be done to change the past, it is safe to say that these instances will have an impact on future medical care and testing.

When people become sick, they put their lives in the hands of medical professionals. Most the time, patients trust medical staff to provide them with the best possible testing and care to ensure their health and well-being. When something goes wrong, negligence can be a factor. Anyone in North Carolina who feels that the negligence of a medical organization has resulted in the wrongful death of a loved one may choose to seek out their options under the umbrella of the law.

Source:, “NC woman IDs donor in rabies case,” Martha Waggoner, March 18, 2013