Suit: Woman Given Mislabeled Stem Cells Died Horrifically

Wrongful death lawsuit tells of leukemia patient's agonizing final year
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 20, 2024 4:26 PM CDT
Suit: She Was Given Mislabeled Stem Cells, Died Horrifically
A doctor draws up stem cells into a syringe.   (Getty Images/James Mutter)

Elizabeth Aloisio hoped the stem cell transplant would aid her recovery from leukemia. Instead, it slowly killed her, according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed Tuesday in New York State Supreme Court, which claims the Queens resident received stem cells from an "incompatible donor" due to a "labeling error." The cells attacked Aloisio's body and ultimately caused her "unimaginably horrific death," adds the suit filed by her brother, John. It names German stem cell donor network AKB Foundation and a subsidiary responsible for collecting donations, which worked with the National Marrow Donor Program to find an appropriate donor. AKB allegedly collected bone stem cells from a donor in Italy, then sent the product to New York, receiving more than $30,000 in compensation.

The transplant took place Jan. 16, 2019. But weeks later, Alosio wasn't showing "the expected signs of improvement," according to the suit. Weeks after that, the head of quality control at the AKB subsidiary that collected and shipped the stem cells explained, "to our great dismay," the wrong product was delivered, likely due to the "mixing up of final products labels," reports the Daily Beast. The employee responsible was removed from his position. Meanwhile, a member of AKB's board of directors reached out to Aloisio with an apology for the "small mistake of one of our experienced coworkers," adding the company had "taken all activities," including instituting a check of samples after labels had been added, "to prevent such a mistake from happening ever again."

That doesn't change that Aloisio suffered from a "completely preventable" mistake that left her too ill to undergo another transplant, according to the suit. "From the date of transplant until her death, Ms. Aloisio suffered from worsening fevers, vomiting, dizziness, pain, diarrhea, infections, pneumonia, and a long list of other symptoms," the complaint reads. That was on top of the effects of "a severe, painful, total-body case" of Graft Versus Host Disease, "which took over her body and destroyed her skin and internal organs," per the suit. She died a year after the transplant on Jan. 7, 2020 at the age of 63. Her dying wish was that her case serve as a cautionary tale for others, her brother, who's seeking undetermined damages and a jury trial, tells the Daily Beast. (More wrongful death stories.)

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