Veteran's lawsuit says doctors misdiagnosed, treated him for HIVBy Greg Kocher
Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader
Published: September 2, 2013
Bobby Russell received HIV treatments for almost eight years before receiving a shocking diagnosis: He never actually had the virus that causes AIDS.
Now the 43-year-old Lexington man is suing the doctors and others at the University of Kentucky Medical Center, the UK-affiliated Bluegrass Care Clinic, and the Fayette County Health Department for medical malpractice.
Russell, 43, claims the defendants were negligent in misdiagnosing him and negligent in failing to order the appropriate tests for HIV.
“I feel like I was sentenced to a crime I wasn’t guilty of,” Russell said in an interview. “I have intentionally put distance between my family and my friends because I thought I was dying, and I didn’t want my family to see me dying. I didn’t want my nieces and nephews see me deteriorating. I thought I was dying…
“Emotionally, mentally, it destroyed me. It just destroyed me,” Russell said. “In 2009, when things got really bad for me, suicide was a strong option for me.”
But Russell said he never attempted suicide. He seeks a trial by jury and an award for compensatory damages and “all other relief” a jury deems appropriate.
The lawsuit filed in Fayette Circuit Court in August says Russell spent eight years believing he had HIV after he was incorrectly diagnosed in 2004. The diagnosis came after a visit to the UK Medical Center emergency room, where Russell was treated for profuse bleeding from the colon. (An earlier routine test at the health department had come back negative for HIV.)
Russell learned he never had the virus after a new test was done at Bluegrass Care Clinic in August 2012.
In between, Russell focused on treatment and “an extensive medication regimen” because “he was afraid he was going to die,” the lawsuit says.
Jonathan C. Dailey, the Washington D.C. lawyer who represents Russell, said no one ever conducted a full spectrum of tests for HIV.
“The fact is that the standard-of-care-protocol methodologies for HIV testing were never done,” Dailey said. “By failing to follow the standard protocol, and telling him that he was HIV positive, telling him that he could only have relations with HIV-positives, then that damage has been done. You can’t take that back. That’s the critical part of this case.”
UK spokesman Jay Blanton wrote in an email that, “as a policy, we do not comment on pending litigation.” (Bluegrass Care Clinic, an infectious disease and HIV/AIDS clinic, is affiliated with UK’s medical school.)
Greg Hiles, a spokesman for the Fayette County Health Department, had no comment but said the matter has been turned over to legal counsel.
Russell said after he was diagnosed with HIV, he took the drug cocktail HAART (or highly active antiretroviral therapy) that routinely keeps many HIV and AIDS patients alive today.
Through the years, tests would provide negative or “undetectable” results, but Russell said “I really never gave it any more thought because I’d already gotten to the point of accepting a diagnosis and treatment.”
That changed when Russell, a military veteran, sought benefits from the Veterans Administration.
“The Veterans Administration had always said, ‘You give us a confirmatory test and we’ll start these benefits for you,’” Russell said. “But nobody had a confirmatory test result to provide me to give to the Veterans Administration.”
The suit says that on Dec. 7, 2012, an infectious disease specialist at Bluegrass Care Clinic told Russell that it appeared no one had ever completed a confirmatory test.
In similar cases, defendants and insurance companies often insist that a plaintiff like Russell ought not to be in court complaining because he is still alive. Dailey has a counter-argument.
“I would ask a jury to look at what they (medical providers) exposed Mr. Russell to, look at the hell they put him in, and look at the emotional devastation that it caused him for over eight years, and then consider what they think the appropriate measure of damages is, even though, yes, he is still alive,” Dailey said.
“We’re talking about stigma, we’re talking about living with disease on a daily basis,” said John Tackett, Russell’s Lexington attorney.
The lawsuit does not seek punitive damages. But if victorious, Dailey said he hopes the suit will “change the protocol so there aren’t more victims in the future.”
Russell said he has had sexual relationships with three HIV-positive partners since he was diagnosed, but he has been in a committed relationship with an HIV-positive partner for the last two years.
Dailey was the attorney for Terry Hedgepeth, a man who sued a Washington D.C. clinic in 2005 because it had mistakenly told him five years earlier that he was HIV-positive. That case was settled in 2012 about a year after the D.C. Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that medical patients who are given incorrect information from their doctors about a life-threatening illness can seek recourse through the courts for emotional distress.
Russell’s suit doesn’t specifically seek damages for emotional distress, but Dailey said that is included in seeking relief for compensatory damages.
Russell lives on his Social Security checks, but he said the suit is not about money.
“This has been the most traumatic event for me. The worst. The worst,” Russell said. “I’m not so sure the next person can be as strong as I have to be able to stand up and fight for what they believe in. If it saves one person, it’s worth it.”
URGENT! You can make a difference. . . . Bobby Russell, recently interviewed by “How Positive Are You” co-host David Crowe on his “The Infectious Myth” show, is raising funds to appeal the September 2014, dismissal on summary judgmentof his medical malpractice suit against the University of Kentucky Medical Center and doctors. This system has an effective monopoly on “HIV/AIDS” testing and treatment in eastern Kentucky but no accountability to patients on how reliable those tests are. They misdiagnosed Bobby as “HIV positive” for eight years.
We hope you will agree that this lawsuit is important. Basically, Kentucky says that persons with “HIV-positive” test results (explained in Episode 6 and again inEpisode 82) must contest these results within a year, even if doctors and other clinicians tell them that they are “in denial” and must be referred for psychiatric evaluation for even thinking the results might be contestable. Continue reading here ...
How Positive Are You
XTRA: Bobby Russell fights Dismissal of his Kentucky Lawsuit, still contests His "HIV Test" results - and you can, too!
Bobby Russell, U.S. Veteran, Files Lawsuit Claiming HIV Misdiagnosis
Hunter Stuart, News Editor
2013 September 03
A U.S. veteran living in Kentucky is suing after a hospital allegedly misdiagnosed him with HIV in 2004. Since then, Bobby Russell, 43, has taken a powerful cocktail of drugs to combat the virus, has struggled with suicide and has had sexual relationships with HIV-positive partners.
A resident of Lexington, Ky., Russell is suing the University of Kentucky Medical Center (UKMC), its affiliated infectious disease clinic, The Bluegrass Clinic, and the Fayette County Health Department for medical negligence and failure to use reasonable care in diagnosing and treating him for HIV.
Russell’s saga began in September 2004, when he was diagnosed HIV-positive by a UKMC doctor, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in mid-August.
Russell questioned that diagnosis, saying an earlier test had come back negative. So UKMC ordered a confirmatory test a few weeks later. That test, called a Western Blot test, didn’t detect HIV 1 and came back negative for HIV 2, according to the lawsuit.
In spite of those results, the lawsuit says doctors proceeded to give Russell literature on how to cope with the virus and advised him to begin seeking treatment. The lawsuit alleges that none of Russell’s doctors ever reviewed the results of the Western Blot test.
“From 2004 until the present day, they never tested him properly for HIV according to the standard of care,” Russell’s lawyer, Johnathan C. Dailey, told The Huffington Post over the phone Tuesday morning. “He had some immune deficiency issues going on, but it wasn’t HIV.”
Russell’s diagnosis was called into question last year when he sought benefits from the Veterans Administration, a process that required a valid diagnosis, according to the Lexington Herald Leader, which interviewed Russell on Sunday. “Nobody had a confirmatory test result to provide me to give to the Veterans Administration,” Russell told the Leader.
Dailey explained the grave risk such a misdiagnosis carries, saying that Russell may have contracted HIV from one of his HIV-positive partners he dated after his diagnosis. He also said that Russell doesn’t know if he contracted HIV over the past 9 years.
Russell told local news station WLEX-TV that he will seek a “reputable” doctor, probably one in another state, to find out for sure whether he is HIV-positive.
But having sexual relations with HIV-positive partners wasn’t the only consequence of the alleged flub. Daily told HuffPost that Russell was taking up to 15 pills a day to treat his supposed HIV, and his drug regimen included azidothymidine (commonly known as AZT), a drug whose safety has been questioned after experiments showed it to be carcinogenic in rodents. “All this medication has taken a toll on [Russell’s] body,” Daily explained.
Russell also contemplated suicide at one point in 2009, he said during his interview with the Leader.
A spokesman for UKMC said the hospital cannot comment on pending litigation. Requests for comment from the Fayette County Health Department went unanswered.
Russell is suing for an undetermined amount of money, leaving it to a jury to decide what he is owed for damages.
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Veteran's Lawsuit says
treated him for HIV.
Bobby Russell received treatments for almost eight years before
receiving a shocking diagnosis: He never actually had the virus that causes AIDS ...
"...the Veterans Administration had always said, You give us a confirmatory test and we'll start these benefits for you," Russell said. "But nobody had a confirmatory test result to provide me to give to the Veterans Administration." Continue reading ...
A veteran who was led to believe he was HIV positive for nine years is suing the hospital, health department and doctors, it emerged today.
Bobby Russell, 43, from Kentucky, has spent almost a decade of his life on heavy medication, avoided his friends and family, only had intimate relationships with people who were HIV positive and became so depressed he considered suicide.
He is suing the University of Kentucky Medical Center, the Bluegrass Care Clinic, the Fayette County Health Department and a long list of doctors who allegedly misdiagnosed him and treated him for the sexually transmitted disease.
According to the lawsuit, the tests to confirm he had the disease were never completed by anyone and all the routine tests carried out since his initial diagnosis in 2004 showed either negative or indeterminable results - which he was unaware of until he requested his medical records last year. Continue reading by using this link to the published article.
Mistakes Happen. We are humans and we can mess-up. Even doctors - as they are not gods, nor are they all-powerful and all knowing, though we sometimes treat them as such. A man was misdiagnosed with HIV and lived as such for 8 years. He was stirred to finally speak out following a mighty wake up call into the truth. What can the lesson of his experience teach and offer to each one of us? Will we equally give our lives away to the voice of doctors and medical reason? Will we sacrifice living fully for the advice of another? Or will we choose today to create the life we desire by living fully in the now, present moment?
As fair as Bobby Russell's lawsuit may seem, will it empower him? That is the only question worth answering in this case. Misdiagnosed with HIV, cancer, heart disease, shyness, unworthiness or poverty - we ought to all be stirred as this man is now - to speak out for our authentic truths, lingering just below the surface of our expressed reality. When it's time to wake up - life hands us a cup of "full", and it's up to us if we spill it or drink it up. Continue reading ...