Felony negligence

Underscoring criminal negligence at all levels in the Bhai Mani Singh Civil Hospital of Bathinda is the offence of a deadly nature: that of infusing HIV-infected blood into unsuspecting patients. Making the transgression graver is the fact that the fatal lapse has been repeated as the officials concerned had failed to put a stop to it the moment it was detected. It blows the lid off the hospital blood bank being negligent in the mandatory step of checking the units donated for infection before passing them on to the recipients.

The investigation into the charge that the Civil Hospital failed to alert the blood donor, the recipient and the authorities even after learning about the HIV-positive status of the donor in May corroborates the systemic failure. Exemplary punishment to all — from top to bottom — is called for. For, it amounts to nothing short of putting a patient’s life at risk. It constitutes a breach of faith of the one who comes to get healed. There are at least two known unfortunate patients who have been administered the infected blood: a woman in May (who was, criminally, not even informed about the contaminated transfusion) and now, a thalassemic child. As they battle for life with compounded problems, the guilty must be given swift and just retribution.

At the same time, the case raises the importance of educating the blood donors about the importance of ensuring that they are infection-free before they set out to make the noble and life-saving deed. A study published in 2015 revealed that around 3 per cent of the donors who come for blood donation at the PGIMER, Chandigarh, are infected with various diseases, including HIV, hepatitis and venereal ailments. Significantly, the infected patients were notified about their status that clearly spelt a no to using their blood for transfusion. The study also entailed upon the blood banks the necessity of embarking on post-donation counselling that not only encompasses information on infection status but also referral for medical care and their treatment.

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