HIV-positive patient wins $18 million in damages in malpractice lawsuit

A HIV patient was awarded $18 million in damages in a malpractice lawsuit after a hospital failed to properly test him for HIV.

Sean Stentiford, 48, filed the lawsuit against Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington, Massachusetts.

Stentiford contracted HIV which evolved into AIDS and caused him irreversible brain damage and the loss of his job as a lawyer. He sued the hospital which failed to test him for the virus.

Stentiford was awarded $18 million in damages following an eight-day malpractice lawsuit in Boston this week.

Stentiford was never told he had not been tested for HIV in 2007.

“He had a brilliant future in front of him. They literally cut the legs out from under him,” his lawyer, David Angueira, told the Boston Globe. “He lost his job. He lost his career. He lost his life.”

Court records show that while Stentiford consented to a HIV test in 2007, his practician did not perform the blood test and failed to inform him of his decision.

Back in May 2007, Stentiford signed a consent form where he agreed to a HIV test. At the time, he was experiencing facial paralysis and was going through a battery of tests.

A resident at Lacey told Stentiford his symptoms were “highly suggestive of HIV infection,” which prompted him to consent to the HIV test.

Stentiford’s sexuality and former professional occupation as a paramedic were two risk factors that meant he should have been regularly tested for HIV.

However, the report found that neurologist Kinan K. Hreib decided against testing Stentiford, noting there was “no risk” of HIV but that testing would be considered.

However, Hreib never told Stentiford that he wouldn’t be tested for HIV, leading the patient to believe he was safe from the virus when he was at risk.

In June 2007, Stentiford visited his primary care doctor, Stephen Southard, who told him his results looked good. Stentiford thought this included his HIV tests. It did not.


A view of the entrance of the Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington – Google Maps

It took three years for Stentiford to learn he had not been tested for HIV in 2007.

However, it was too late. When he finally was tested and discovered he was HIV-positive, the virus had already evolved into AIDS and caused brain damage. As a result, Stentiford lost his job.

Stentiford is now on medication and no longer suffers from AIDS-related symptoms. Angueira said his client was “numb” during the trial.

Since 2006, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised that patients between 13-and-64 years of age be tested for HIV at least once. For gay and bisexual men, these tests should occur on a yearly basis.

Since 2006, Stentiford’s file contained a note describing him as a “somewhat closeted gay man,” which means he should have been tested regularly.

Chris Murphy, spokesperson for Lahey said that the hospital would be appealing the court’s decision.

“Quality care is our top priority and the health care providers of Lahey Hospital & Medical Center have an unwavering commitment to delivering the best care to every patient, every day,” he said.