St James’s Hospital apologises for death of 32-year-old woman after stem cell transplantation

By Ann O’Loughlin

St James’s Hospital has apologised in the High Court to the husband of a woman who died after she underwent a stem cell transplantation there.

Barbara Kozyra (aged 32) had been transferred from a hospital in Northern Ireland to the Dublin hospital for the specialist treatment relating to a bone marrow stem cell disorder, but her counsel Jeremy Maher SC said the 32-year-old died just under two months after the operation.

Counsel said a mistake was made in the filling out of a form. A transplant co-ordinator mistakenly marked Ms Kozyra down as negative for cytomegalovirus (CMV) when she was in fact positive. A common virus which can lie dormant, CMV can be reactivated and become dangerous when someone is immunosuppressed post-transplant.

Counsel said Ms Kozyra’s immune system did not respond as it should after the transplant and tragically she lost her life in October 2013.

In the apology read to the court as part of the settlement of the case, the hospital offered its sincere condolence to Ms Kozyra’s husband Piotr Kozyra and the Kozyra extended family on her untimely death.

"The hospital acknowledges that there was a delay in identifying a complication of her illness which contributed to her death," the statement said.

Mr Maher told the court the Coroner’s Court later recorded a verdict of medical misaventure in the case.

The apology, Mr Maher said, did help Mr Kozyra but he said nothing would replace his wife.

Approving the settlement the terms of which are confidential, Mr Justice Cross sympathised with Mr Kozyra for the "tragic and avoidable" loss of his wife. He said he knew nothing would compensate Mr Kozyra for his loss.

Piotr Kozyra, Barrack Hill Meadows, Loughmacrory, Co Tyrone had sued St James’s Hospital, Dublin over the death of his wife on October 5, 2013.

Ms Kozyra needed the transplant having been diagnosed at Belfast City Hospital with a bone marrow stem cell disorder. A family match could not be found for her and Northern Ireland does not carry out unrelated donor bone marrow transplants so she was transferred to St James’s Hospital and the stem cell transplantation took place on August 15, 2013.

It was claimed there was an initial error in transcription at the hospital in filling out a form which described Ms Kozyra as CMV negative when she was in fact CMV positive and it is claimed the situation was further compounded by an alleged failure to pick up on the initial error.

After the transplant Barbara Kozyra’s condition deteriorated and she died on October 5, 2013.

It was claimed there was a failure to observe and analyse the signs and symptoms of Ms Kozyra’s post-transplant condition in time or at all and a failure to administer an antiviral agent in time or at all.

It was further claimed there was a failure to consider or to make the correct diagnosis and a failure to apply the normal standards of professionalism to Ms Kozyra’s care.

All members of Ms Kozyra’s extended family in Poland as well as her husband, it was claimed, suffered mental distress and anxiety as a result of her death.

The court was told that negligence had been admitted in the case.

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