More Articles

Medical Malpractice Laws

Blood Transfusions and Possible Negligence

A blood transfusion involves the transfer of blood from one person to another. This can entail indirect transfusion, where a person donates blood that is stored at the blood bank, and when another person needs the blood, the hospital or medical facility transfers the stored blood to the patient. The aim is to only transfer blood when a person’s life is in danger or when they need the blood for treatment of a medical condition that would prevail or worsen if they do not receive a blood transfusion. If done according to the correct procedures, the transfusion can save a life or improve the quality of a person’s health.

Most of the time the blood is separated into plasma, red cells, and platelets, which are transferred according to the condition for which treatment is needed. When we think of why a blood transfusion may be needed, the first thing that comes to mind is to treat severe blood loss as the result of injury. However, various medical conditions exist for which people may need to receive blood, including some forms of cancer, replacement of blood after a major surgery or to treat anaemia, sickle cell disease, haemophilia, bone marrow conditions, diabetes, liver conditions, etc.

Risks Involved

Like any other medical procedure, there is always the risk of complications. In most instances, the correct procedures are followed, from collection, transportation, and storage to testing, confirming blood type, and transfusion. South Africa’s medical malpractice laws cover the instances where deviations from correct procedures have led to injury and damages on behalf of the patient. It is not uncommon for someone to experience slight side effects from a blood transfusion, but where the person suffers serious injury and damages, it is important to claim compensation for this within the allowable timeframe.

We recommend making use of experienced attorneys familiar with the various medical malpractice laws to determine whether negligence has taken place and which legal steps to take to receive compensation for the damages suffered.

Types of Errors

The normal procedure to prevent accidental transfusion of the wrong type of blood is to test the patient’s blood for type just prior to the transfusion, and indicating the blood type on their wristband. The medical staff member is supposed to confirm blood type before transfusion with every bag of blood to be transfused. The patient can die if the wrong blood type is received and in most instances, it will be deemed medical negligence on the part of the medical staff.

If the patient receives blood infected with a condition such as Hepatitis B, HIV or another type of transmittable disease, it is also likely to be an instance of negligence. The medical professionals must take precautions when working with blood, including storage, handling of blood bags, cleaning the donor’s arm, and ensuring proper hygiene during the transfusion. Blood is tested for the diseases before storage, but there are instances where the diseases go undetected. Proving negligence in such a case is more complex.

If you or your child has suffered personal injury as the result of a blood transfusion, gain legal advice from Adele van der Walt Incorporated regarding medical malpractice laws in South Africa and the steps to take in seeking compensation for damages suffered.


Note that the information in this article is for information purposes only and should not be seen as an attempt to provide legal advice. We strongly recommend that you contact us at Adele van der Walt Incorporated for professional legal advice.

Contact us