Nurse at botched kidney transplant sues over firing

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A veteran nurse present during a botched kidney transplant at an Ohio hospital last summer has sued for wrongful termination.

The lawsuit filed Friday in Columbus seeks $25,000 for Melanie LeMay, a nurse suspended then fired after a different nurse accidentally threw away a viable kidney as medical waste during the procedure last August.

After the error, the hospital apologized and put an administrator and two nurses on paid leave. LeMay alleges her subsequent termination was based on violating policies and procedures that didn't exist on the day of the operation.

The 30-year employee of the hospital cited published reports in which Lloyd Jacobs, the hospital's president, said people were fired "because they violated policy" - not because of human error. In other public statements, he has cited human error as the cause.

LeMay went on to allege that operating room policies that hospital administrators turned over to investigators from the Department of Health and Human Services had an effective date of Aug. 16 - six days after the surgery.

LeMay also cites an investigative report on the incident that indicated no policy or procedures other than those dated Aug. 16 were presented to investigators as in place on the day of the failed procedure.

University spokesman Tobin Klinger declined comment Saturday. "It would be inappropriate for us to comment on pending litigation," he said.

Besides the personnel actions, the hospital voluntarily suspended its kidney transplant program from August to December.

A report by a surgeon hired by the hospital to review its program called it "baffling" that the nurse would accidentally dispose of the viable kidney. At the same time, he found no problems with the systems that would have indicated the hospital was at risk for such a mistake. The nurse who threw out the organ resigned within weeks.

The family of the woman set to receive the kidney that day and her brother, who was her live donor, filed suit against the hospital last week alleging medical negligence and seeking $25,000 for each of eight plaintiffs.