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Blood-transfusion death investigated
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An inquest will be held to determine how a 52-year-old man died yesterday morning after receiving contaminated blood in Tuen Mun Hospital in Hong Kong last week.

Wong Yun-cheun received the blood transfusion on January 3. He suffered from chronic liver disease and anemia.

His family said they reserved the right to sue the hospital if an investigation by an expert panel formed by the Hospital Authority determines that his death was caused by human negligence.

As of last night, the man's family had not yet discussed compensation with the hospital.

Wong went into shock, had a severe shortness of breath and his blood pressure dropped two hours after the transfusion.

He was transferred to the intensive care unit and died at 2:16 am yesterday.

Laboratory tests found that the patient's blood and blood bag were contaminated with Pseudomonas fluorescens bacterium.

On Sunday, hospital officials said that the transfusion had been conducted according to guidelines and that the blood had been stored and handled properly.

University of Hong Kong professor Yuen Kwok-yung, chairman of the review panel, said the incident could be related to the blood bags and blood storage fridge, but no systematic problem or abnormality was found yesterday.

He said the cause of death can not be found in 90 percent of the cases where patients die from blood transfusions.

The panel went to the Red Cross' Blood Transfusion Center and to Tuen Mun Hospital yesterday to observe blood donations and the transfusion process.

To lower the chance of future blood contamination, the panel members suggested timing blood donations to ensure the skin had enough time to sterilize and reduce contamination of blood bags, Yuen said.

He also recommended that if a patient goes into shock after a transfusion, antibiotics should be given immediately to increase his or her survival rate.

Ho Pak-leung, an associate professor of microbiology at the University of Hong Kong, said investigations by the panel and Coroner were different.

He said any unidentified cause of death, such as in this case, would be referred to the Coroner. And in this case, it was unknown why the bacteria existed in the blood bag, he said.

(China Daily January 8, 2008)


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