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Jury awards $12.2 million to doctor infected with HIV virus

December 18, 1997

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ Saying she was ``thrown to the wolves″ with inadequate training, a doctor infected with the AIDS virus while an intern at Yale University won a $12.2 million judgment against the Ivy League school.

The woman, who sued under the pseudonym Jane Doe, blamed the school for not properly training or supervising her when she was ordered to insert a blood line into the arm of an AIDS patient.

The woman was 25 when she pricked herself in August 1988, just seven weeks into her internship at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Six weeks later, she tested positive for the AIDS virus.

``You cannot send young trainees ... out to do something that is inherently unsafe without being properly trained and supervised,″ she said. ``My hope is that it will never happen again.″

The doctor and her family broke down in tears when the verdict was announced Wednesday.

``Money is not compensation for what I’ve lost,″ she said.

The woman and her attorneys said they hoped the verdict would warn medical residency programs throughout the nation that they must improve training and supervision of new residents.

``We were thrown to the wolves from day one,″ the doctor said. ``It’s like combat duty, a war zone.″

The woman had sought $21 million. The six-member jury awarded damages of more than $15 million but reduced it by about $3 million, finding she was partially responsible for the accident.

The woman is now 35 and practicing at an undisclosed location. She has not developed full-blown AIDS.

Her attorney, Michael Koskoff, presented evidence that she received just 10 minutes of cursory training in ``universal precautions″ to prevent transmission of the AIDS virus before she was ordered to take on the risky medical procedure.

A full lecture on the subject did not come until several months later, on Oct. 6 _ the woman’s birthday, he said. By then, she had already contracted the human immunodeficiency virus.

Yale’s attorney, William Doyle, said the university would appeal. He had argued that the school should not be held responsible because it was Yale-New Haven Hospital’s responsibility to train and supervise the woman.

He also blamed the woman for failing to immediately dispose of the needle when she finished using it and argued that needle sticks are a common occurrence that happen to even the most highly trained health care professionals.

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