Woman Awarded $2.5 Million Who Underwent Nine Years of Unnecessary HIV Treatments

  1. BOSTON — A jury awarded $2.5 million in damages Wednesday to a woman who received HIV treatments for almost nine years before discovering she never actually had the virus that causes AIDS.

    In her lawsuit against a doctor who treated her, Audrey Serrano said the powerful combination of drugs she took triggered a string of ailments, including depression, chronic fatigue, loss of weight and appetite and inflammation of the intestine.
    Serrano, 45, said she cried after hearing the verdict in Worcester Superior Court and was gratified that the jury believed her.
    "I'm going to finish my school and I am going to continue to help others," Serrano said in a telephone interview from her Fitchburg home. "I am going to find another doctor that will help me."
    Serrano's attorney, David Angueira, said Dr. Kwan Lai, who treated his client at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester's HIV clinic, repeatedly failed to order definitive tests even after monitoring of Serrano's treatment did not show the presence of HIV in her blood.
    "It is one of the clearest cases of misdiagnosis that I have ever seen and it's based in part on a presumption that people who engage in certain types of conduct are more likely to have HIV and AIDS than other people without really listening to the patient," Angueira said after the verdict.

    Lai testified last week that Serrano told her she had worked as a prostitute, her partner had AIDS, and that she had suffered three bouts of a type of pneumonia typically associated with those infected by the virus.
    Serrano has denied she had ever been a prostitute. She confirmed that her former boyfriend tested positive for HIV/AIDS, but disputed the claim that she told the doctor that she had suffered bouts of Pneumocystis pneumonia.
    Lai's attorney, Joannie Gulliford Hoban, did not return a call for comment Wednesday night.
    Lai testified that she had no reason to question Serrano's original diagnosis at another clinic because Serrano convinced her she had HIV when she took her personal history, and her blood had abnormal amounts of cells used to fight infections.
    Hoban argued during the trial that Lai had provided standard care to Serrano.
    "Audrey's case clearly demonstrates how inadequate that procedure was," Angueira said. He said his client "is responsible for changing thousands of lives in the future."
    The medical center, which was not named in the lawsuit, did not immediately return a message for comment Wednesday night. The institution has denied wrongdoing in the case.
    The jury reached its verdict after two days of deliberations, Serrano's attorney said. He said the damages could total about $3.7 million including prejudgment interest.
    Serrano filed the lawsuit in 2003 after she became suspicious of her diagnosis and had herself tested at another hospital.

  2. Wow! I'd be pissed too! Imagine going through all that!
  3. Oh my... so much to go through that was not even necessary. I can't even imagine thinking that you are HIV positive and dealing w/ it, only to learn that you had all that anguish, stress, etc., for years for no reason at all.
  4. I can't imagine...having to take all those drugs year after year, only to find out it was all a waste. Those drugs are really harsh on your system and really expensive.

    And isn't the test to see if you have HIV a blood test? Seems like the doctors were too judgmental and lazy to order a test that would have said she was negative...
  5. Wow. Now this makes me wonder about some of the diagnoises I've gotten this past year.

  6. My GP claims that false positives and false negatives are very common. He claims they're so common that he doesn't even trust the test.
  7. For nine years of hell, $2.5 million doesn't really seem enough.
  8. Seems low to me... that must have been such a roller coaster.
  9. Wow, I can't even imagine going through all of that! $2.5 million does not seem like enough. I know the article says the woman trusted her doctor, but I definitely would have sought out a second opinion regardless of whether I trusted my doctor or not.
  10. wooow. how can they say she had hiv if they never ordered the test???? what the heck is that??????????????????? third world country?
    i am so pissed at this
  11. This poor woman deserves to be compensated for every second of misery she had to endure...
  12. How terrible, poor woman! I feel so bad she had to suffer all those years of filling her body of unnecessary drugs, she should have gotten more out of this, but I am glad she did get some justice out of this.
  13. $2.5 million for compensation seems too little! It is nine long years and irreversible damages to her body, you would think she should be rewarded for a little more.
  14. Whoa....insane.
  15. I'm a medical student and we learned that: NO TEST UP TO NOW CAN DETERMINE IF ONE HAS DEFINITIVELY HIV OR NOT UNTIL THE ACTUAL SYMPTOMS SHOW UP!!! THUS, IN MY OPINION, the doctor is NOT in any wrong-doing since HIV-carriers can be ASSYMPTOMATIC for a few years and THEREFORE, IF THERE IS SUSPICION of HIV, the doctor CAN prescribe or order medications! Early intervention is a GOOD thing.

    Thus, from what I learned, I personally find the woman is somewhat stretching the truth a bit... even when she said that SHE never got pneumocytis, well maybe she didn't know what that meant at the time of presentation to the physician and it is the doctor here who is DIAGNOSING her with this disease, which means that SHE can deny the existence of the disease, but it's the DOC who is calling the game...
    There are MANY misdiagnoses every year by MANY doctors anyway... I think she's over-rewarded just like in many lawsuits in the US...

    This article is a clear example of how most people who are not medical specialists (not that I'm one yet) could think negatively of the healthcare system when in actuality, it is there to HELP the patients.