HIV Patient Awarded $18.4 Million In Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
A federal jury awards Boston native Sean Stentiford $18.4 million in a medical malpractice suit after a clinic failed to test him for HIV.
Risk factors such as being gay and formerly working as a paramedic make Stentiford, 48, particularly vulnerable to HIV.
However, despite his explicit consent and a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation for testing high risk patients, the doctors did not test him for HIV, which caused a damaging progression of the virus.
Doctors Fail To Test For HIV
Boston Globe reports that, according to the court documents, Stentiford went to the Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington after experiencing facial paralysis in May 2007.
During the trial, the consent form for HIV testing signed by Stentiford was presented. He agreed to undergo the test when a resident told him that his symptoms were consistent with HIV infection.
The lawsuit alleges that neurologist Kinan K. Hreib disagreed with the assessment, even noting in Stentiford's record that there's no risk of HIV, but also saying that a test would be considered. Then, Hreib canceled HIV testing with no word to his patient.
A month later, Stentiford was told by his primary care doctor Stephen E. Southard that all his tests came back with no problems, which he believed included HIV assessment.
Three years later, another doctor recommended he take the test due to symptoms, which revealed he does have HIV. At this point, his conditions have worsened to AIDS with brain damage and cognitive impairment. As a lawyer, these symptoms are career-ending.
"He had a brilliant future in front of him. They literally cut the legs out from under him," Stentiford's lawyer David P. Angueira explains in Boston Globe. "He lost his job. He lost his career. He lost his life."
Stentiford is taking medication to control his illness, so he no longer exhibits AIDS symptoms.
After an eight-day trial in the U.S. District Court, a jury found Hreib and Southard negligent in providing care for their patient and causing him injury.
Daniel P. McQuillen, an infectious disease specialist, was found to be negligent as well. However, his actions did not cause harm to Stentiford.
Chris Murphy, a spokesman for the hospital, has said that the group has plans for an appeal and that they don't agree with the "presentation of the facts." He adds that quality care is the top priority of Lahey Hospital & Medical Center.
According to the CDC, HIV or human immunodeficiency virus cannot be flushed out by the body completely — it is a virus that's for life. However, with proper medical treatment and care, the virus doesn't have to progress to AIDS, which is the last and most severe stage of the HIV infection.
Patients with AIDS have immune systems that are so damaged that it increases their chances of being severely sick with opportunistic illnesses.