Lawsuit: Man Gets Cancerous Lungs, Dies

A transplant patient died six months after apparently getting a smoker's lungs.

Apr. 8, 2008 — -- PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A man received a smoker's cancerous lungs in a transplant at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and died six months later, according to a lawsuit against the hospital and several doctors.

Tony Grier, who suffered from a rare lung disease, joined a transplant waiting list and received the donor lungs on Jan. 7, 2005, the suit said. Although doctors noticed a spot on his lungs a month later, the lawsuit alleges, they did not diagnose the cancer until late May.

The New Jersey man remained hospitalized at Penn from then until his July 16 death at age 43.

The suit filed by Grier's mother alleges that Penn told Grier he was getting the healthy lungs of an 18-year-old - a charge that Penn denies, spokeswoman Susan Phillips said Monday.

Instead, they came from a pack-a-day smoker who died at Lancaster General Hospital after a car crash, the suit said. Grier's family is seeking more than $5 million in compensatory damages, plus additional money for pain and suffering.

The family of the donor, a 31-year-old woman, also told Lancaster General that she drank alcohol and may have used illegal drugs, the suit said. The family was interviewed by a Lancaster nurse and filled out a Gift of Life Donor Program form, it said.

The University of Pennsylvania hospital denies that it supplied Grier with any misinformation, and also denies the other counts, which include medical malpractice, negligence, battery and emotional distress.

"It's a terrible tragedy. We are as heartbroken as the next person," said Phillips, the health system's senior vice president for public affairs. "We had no way of knowing that we were receiving anything other than healthy organs."

"When institutions that perform transplants get the organ, the presumption is that the organs have been tested," she said.

Tony Grier had been diagnosed in 1986 with pulmonary sarcoidosis, which can cause lung tissue to harden.

Emma Grier, of Newark, N.J., filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of her son's estate. Her lawyer, Dawn L. Jackson, declined comment Monday, citing Penn's pending request for a gag order.

Among others, the suit also names Penn Drs. Alberto Pochettinio, Jeffrey Sager and Robert Kotloff; Lancaster General and the hospital's Dr. Gregory Rossini.

Lawyer Peter J. Lynch, who represents Penn and its doctors, declined comment. Lancaster General spokesman Kim Payne also declined comment Monday, citing the pending litigation.

The suit, initially filed in New Jersey, has been transferred to Judge R. Barclay Surrick in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. No trial date has been set.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)