Misdiagnosed With HIV Gets $2.5 Million

A jury has
awarded $2.5 million in damages 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

Serrano, 45, said
she cried after hearing the verdict Wednesday in
Worcester, Mass., 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, Mass., home. ''I am going to find
another doctor that will help me.''

attorney, David Angueira, said physician Kwan Lai, who
treated his client at the HIV clinic in the University
of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester,
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

Lai testified
last week that Serrano told her she had worked as a
prostitute, that 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 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 call 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. (AP)

Tags: Health, Health

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