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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane plasma donor sues over false hepatitis, HIV diagnoses

A Spokane woman is suing a Pennsylvania-based plasma donation company with a clinic in Hayden, Idaho, claiming technicians there falsely diagnosed her with hepatitis and HIV, prompting a 10-day nightmare.

Melissa Bloom alleges BioLife Plasma Services, a company that established a donor facility off U.S. Highway 95 in 2009, and several of its employees acted negligently when they used a test of 100 blood samples pooled for processing to conclude she had contracted the diseases. Bloom is seeking damages of more than $10,000 because she says the false positive caused her debilitating emotional distress in April.

Selling her plasma to the Hayden facility for about six months, Bloom made a donation in early March, according to court documents filed in Kootenai County earlier this month. A test of her blood by the facility revealed no trace of any communicable disease, according to court documents.

Later, BioLife workers combined Bloom’s blood with that of several other donors to prepare it for sale. A test of that blood came back positive for hepatitis B and C, communicable illnesses that attack the liver. Tests also showed the human immunodeficiency virus. All three ailments have no cure.

Bloom was informed of the positive test when she tried to donate to the Hayden facility again in April. Technicians there had also removed her from consideration nationwide by entering her name on a list of rejected donors. According to court documents, Bloom immediately drove to her physician and ordered a series of blood tests that later confirmed the false diagnosis.

The company sent Bloom a letter April 25, more than a week after her visit, that said “we feel confident the result from the March 7, 2013, donation represents a false positive,” according to the court filing.

Bloom claims the company defamed her by placing her name on the donor deferral list. She also says the notification prompted a humiliating conversation with her fiancé and concerns about her grandson coming into contact with an open wound on her leg.

In an emailed statement, a BioLife spokesperson said the company, a subsidiary of the Baxter Healthcare Corp., was aware of the lawsuit but declined to discuss the specifics of the case. The spokesperson said the company is committed to safety.

“Baxter and BioLife Plasma Services rely on highly stringent policies and processes to assure product safety,” the statement read. “These include extensive donor selection and screening, plasma screening and inventory hold, and processes to … remove viruses.”

Bloom has also indicated she will seek punitive damages against the company. She also wants the court to allow identification of the technicians involved in reporting the false positive.