Lawsuit: tumorous lungs put in lung recipient patient

Posted on Feb 08, 2008
Two years ago, Tony Grier received a pair of diseased lungs during a lung transplant at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Now, HUP must respond to questions raised in a lawsuit filed by Grier's estate.

Grier, 43, had pulmonary sarcoidosis - a rare disease that in its chronic form thickens lung tissue to the point at which it can no longer transmit oxygen into the bloodstream - and believed he was exchanging his own lungs for those of a healthy 18-year-old.

Instead, Grier received the cancerous lungs of a 31-year-old smoker. He died six months after the operation.

Last October, his mother, Emma Grier, filed a lawsuit against HUP, four of its physicians and Gift of Life - the organ-donor program through which the lungs were allocated to Tony Grier. She is suing each defendant for $750,000 on seven counts, including medical malpractice, wrongful death and common law fraud.

No date has yet been set for a hearing, and all lawyers involved declined to speak about the case or were unavailable for comment.

According to the complaint filed by Emma Grier in December, HUP doctors misrepresented the identity of his lung donor "with the knowledge that the misrepresentations were false when made."

One month after the surgery, Tony Grier began to complain about pain and coughing. His doctors at HUP examined the lungs and found a spot, but did not recognize it as a cancerous tumor.

They treated the spot with antibiotics which, the complaint alleges, "served as a fertilizer for the cancer-filled tumor to grow and spread throughout Mr. Grier's body." By the time the tumor was recognized, the cancer was untreatable, and Tony Grier "continued under great pain and suffering fully aware that he was going to die."

Saul Langsam, an attorney with the Philadelphia medical malpractice firm Silvers, Langsam and Weitzman who is not affiliated with the Grier case, said he has never come across a case like it.

On the basis of the facts presented in Emma Grier's complaint, he said the episode seemed "outrageous." But, Langsam said, "you never see the full picture until the defense files its answer."

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