Health still OK for Northwestern patient exposed to HIV during surgery
Loop North News


Accidentally exposed to HIV during routine hernia surgery two years ago, the Chicago-area man who is suing Northwestern Memorial Hospital, according to his attorney, has not tested positive for the retrovirus.

15-Aug-19 – A man undergoing routine hernia surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital was given a sedative from a syringe that had previously been used on an HIV-positive patient.

Though denying many details, Northwestern has admitted to the general accuracy of claims by the man, identified only as “John Doe,” who has filed a lawsuit against the hospital.

Reached on Wednesday, his attorney, Shawn Kasserman of Tomaski Kotin Kasserman, said Doe, so far, has not tested positive for HIV.

Kasserman describes him as a “well-educated, high-achieving professional.”

The medical malpractice complaint was filed in Cook County Circuit Court on January 17, 2018.

Dr. Wilson Hartz, III

In their response, filed on March 3, 2019, Northwestern agrees that hernia surgery was performed on John Doe on January 31, 2017, by Dr. Wilson Hartz, III (left), and again on February 17, 2017. During the second surgery, Northwestern personnel “administered anesthesia to John Doe from a syringe that had previously been used during a procedure on a patient known to be HIV-positive.”

Realizing this while the man slept, Northwestern personnel drew blood from him to test it for HIV and they consulted an infectious disease specialist.

Doe says he was not told anything about the incident before he was discharged from the hospital shortly after his surgery on February 17, 2017. Northwestern denies this but says they “are without knowledge and information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth or falsity of the allegations.”

Ten days later, on February 27, 2017, during a scheduled follow-up visit with his surgeon, Doe was directed to meet with Dr. Charles Hogue (right), chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology at Northwestern and a professor of anesthesiology. Only then was Doe told that a syringe had been reused from a previous patient but, according to Doe, Hogue did not mention that the previous patient was HIV-positive.

Dr. Charles Hogue

Doe says he was assured by Hogue that there was “no risk” to his health as a result of the reuse of the syringe, though Northwestern does not agree with this.

He says he was told by Hogue to direct all future questions to Sean Jones, an executive assistant for the Department of Anesthesiology. Doe says he emailed Jones, asking to see a summary of the incident and what infections, diseases, or conditions the other patient had. He asked that tests be run on the other patient, looking specifically for HIV and hepatitis. And he wanted a meeting with the head of infectious diseases at Northwestern to discuss what testing he should have.

Dr. Teresa Zembower

Jones responded the next day, not answering his questions, says Doe, but suggesting that he meet with Dr. Teresa Zembower (left), an infectious disease physician and associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University. Doe sent a second email to Jones, again asking for information on the other patient but, he says, was only given Zembower’s contact information.

Doe tried again to get information on the other patient, this time speaking with Jennifer Benton, an attorney for Northwestern, but claims he was told the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act prevented her from providing any information about the other patient. He says he showed Benton exemptions to HIPAA that would permit her to disclose the information but was told the “more restrictive state law precluded disclosure.”

Northwestern agrees that Doe had conversations with Benton and other attorneys for Northwestern, but they deny his specific allegations.

Patient learns of HIV exposure 33 days after surgery

Northwestern Memorial Hospital does agree that on March 22, 2017, during a meeting with Zembower, Doe finally learned for the first time that the syringe used on him during hernia surgery had previously been used on an HIV-positive patient, and that it was Zembower who had been consulted during the surgery.

Northwestern said they would pay for blood tests to screen Doe for HIV and hepatitis. They deny telling him, as he has claimed, that he should use a condom during sex with his wife.

Doe immediately sought treatment for exposure to HIV, at the University of Chicago Medical Center, but was informed by a representative of the university’s infectious disease department that it was “too late for antiretroviral medicines to be of any benefit.”

Doe says Northwestern personnel failed to dispose of the syringe after using it on the HIV-positive patient and instead reused it on him, withdrew blood from him without his knowledge or consent, destroyed the blood sample without his knowledge, failed to administer potentially life-saving medicines after exposing him to HIV, deprived him of the decision to receive treatment for HIV exposure, concealed the exposure from him, and failed to note the incident in his medical records.

The complaint alleges medical battery, reckless endangerment, and fraudulent concealment. His wife, identified as “Jane Doe,” was added as a plaintiff shortly after the lawsuit was filed. Her claim is for “loss of consortium,” which is deprivation of the benefits of a family relationship due to injuries caused by a party being sued.

A status hearing is scheduled for September 17.

 Previous story: Northwestern patient says he was told too late of possible HIV exposure

By Steven Dahlman | Loop North News |

Published 15-Aug-19 2:59 AM

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