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Beijing Hospital in Tainted Blood Suit

Parents of an eight-year-old AIDS patient in central China's Henan Province have filed a lawsuit against a Beijing hospital, claiming blood transfused there was infected with the HIV virus.

In what's believed to be the first such case in the Chinese capital, the Beijing Haidian District People's Court accepted the lawsuit.

The boy's father Sun Ya, claims more than 860,000 yuan (US$104,000) in compensation for medical fees and psychological damages.

The court session is expected to open in about a month, sources said.

The hospital is the famous Stomatological Hospital affiliated with Peking University.

The eight-year-old boy Xiao Fei (not his real name) tested positive for HIV last November at the Henan Provincial Health and Epidemic Prevention Station after suffering from a serious case of pneumonia, his father claims.

Both Sun Ya and his wife, Yuan Wenli, have tested negative for the virus.

"So the infection is not between my wife and my son. Xiao Fei was only seven years old then. He has no sexual ability. He is not a drug addict," Sun said.

Sun and his wife concluded that the blood transfusion was the one likely source of the infection.

"My son has received only one blood transfusion. That was during an operation at the Stomatological Hospital affiliated with Peking University," he said.

Xiao Fei underwent a cleft palate repair procedure at the hospital in August 2002.

"Physicians in my hometown, Zhengzhou of Henan Province, advised me to take my son to this famous Beijing-based hospital for the operation for better medical treatment," Sun Ya said.

The hospital's director of the medical affairs department, who only gave her surname as Shen, said the boy's HIV infection is not connected to the hospital.

"The blood used by our hospital is provided by the authoritative blood center in Beijing. It is legal," she said.

Shen added that the boy has also been operated on at Henan hospitals, making it difficult to tell where he was infected.

She declined to make any more comments yesterday.

Still, one legal expert said it's up to the hospital to prove no tainted blood came from them.

"According to a judicial interpretation issued by the Supreme People's Court in 2001, the accused hospital has to provide evidence to prove its medical treatment is not the cause to the patient's injuries. Otherwise the hospital should shoulder responsibility for the patient's injuries," said Shi Jichun, professor with the Law School of the Renmin University of China.

"The patient only needs to provide evidence to prove he has been treated at the accused hospital, such as registration card, and the injuries testimony," he said.

Xu Kexin, director of the AIDS medical research center at the Beijing Ditan Hospital, a well-known AIDS treatment center, said there are only three ways to be infected by the HIV virus. The virus can be transmitted by fluids exchanged between mother and children, in blood transfusion or through sexual contact.

Most children infected by the HIV virus, usually contract it through one of the first two ways, said Xu.

Lawsuits over HIV-tainted blood have surfaced in recent years in many regions including Henan, north China's Hebei Province and east China's Jiangsu Province.

Sun Aihong, a 39-year-old woman in Gongyi city of Henan, received compensation of 268,000 yuan (US$32,000) from a local hospital last year. She was infected eight years ago after a blood transfusion.

Six-year-old Jia Jia received 362,000 yuan (US$44,000) in Xingtai, Hebei Province, from a local hospital. The girl was diagnosed as an HIV carrier in 1999 after her mother died of AIDS. Her mother was infected through a blood transfusion at the hospital. The Xingtai Intermediate People's Court made the judgment in December last year.

"I do not know whether we can win the case," said the 36-year-old mother of the eight-year-old patient.

"I do not know how long our money can support my son's medical treatment either," she added.

She and her husband both quit their jobs after their son fell ill in November. Medical costs are more than 20,000 yuan (US$2,410) per month.

(China Daily February 3, 2004)

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