On Monday, June 25, a federal jury in Boston awarded $18.4 million in damages to a man who alleged that two of his former physicians failed to test him for HIV despite risk factors that made him more vulnerable to contracting the disease.
According to the Boston Globe, Sean Stentiford, 48, was more susceptible to developing the virus that causes AIDS because he is gay and, earlier in his life, worked as a paramedic, a job that regularly exposed him to bodily fluids.
Even though he consented to an HIV test in 2007, his doctors never performed one. Three years later, another doctor performed the test which came back positive. His HIV eventually progressed to AIDS.
Stentiford said he had agreed to the testing because someone had told him that his symptoms were highly suggestive of HIV infection. However, a neurologist Stentiford visited disagreed and noted in Stentiford’s medical record that there was “no risk of HIV.”
It was not until about three years later, as his condition worsened, that Stentiford learned he was not tested for HIV in 2007, and that he did in fact have the virus. By that time, Stentiford was struggling with brain damage and cognitive impairment.
After an eight-day trial in US District Court, the jury found that two doctors, internist Stephen E. Southard and neurologist Kinan K. Hreib, were negligent in caring for Stentiford and caused him injury. Additionally, jurors found that a third doctor, Daniel P. McQuillen, an infectious disease specialist, was also negligent but concluded his actions didn’t cause Stentiford harm.
During the medical malpractice trial, jurors were shown the consent form for HIV testing that Stentiford signed in May 2007. The form was signed in the presence of his sister as he underwent a battery of tests at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington as he was experiencing facial paralysis.
Since 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended that all patients between the ages of 13 and 64 be screened for HIV at least once, according to the agency’s website.
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