Advocacy Living Kidney Donor

Not Easy to Sue For Malpractice

Propublica’s long-term investigation into patient harm has produced an article about the difficulties in obtaining a malpractice attorney. The story revolves around living kidney donor Ernie Ciccotelli.


“Ciccotelli, 58, donated his kidney in 2006 at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston…within days he suffered nausea and intense pain in his gut, then chills and a steady greenish drainage that soaked his bandages and shirts.

He had an infection plus an additional complication: His intestines had knuckled under beneath his skin. Ten days after the transplant, doctors operated again, removing 15 inches of dying intestine from Ciccotelli’s gut and scraping out the infection…’

Over the course of his complications and recovery, Ernie “estimates he lost $45,000 in earnings.

Ciccotelli said he paid a few thousand dollars out-of-pocket traveling back and forth to the hospital for treatments. For about a year he was unable to carry any weight, and he said he still can’t exercise the way he did before the surgery, which has caused his weight to balloon.

Ciccotelli figured another lawyer would jump to take his case. He’d been fine before the surgery and clearly had suffered harm. But one by one, lawyers turned him away.

After about a half-dozen rejections, he asked one why no one would take his case. You can win, the attorney told him, but it won’t be enough money to be worth it.”


It’s not about justice; it’s not about holding the doctors and hospitals responsible; it’s about MONEY. The article, which you should read in full, discusses the too-common practice of malpractice attorneys rejecting clients because there simply isn’t enough profit in it.

This is why we need to push for public policies and laws that protect living donors, and go public about the harm we’ve experienced. We simply can’t rely on the civil courts to make us whole.