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Anique
anique.com
A Father's Story
by Bruce Kasper

(page 3 of 4)

From that point on, it has been a continuous battle. I went to the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, who formed a sub-committee on medical ethics. They wrote a letter to Cedars in November 1992 I think is worthy of the Pulitzer Prize. Cedars finally relented in April of 1993, and contacted the families of all the surviving children of the offer.

Anique - i care However, this offer, signed by Dr. Philip A. Brunell, Chief, Division of Infectious Diseases, was not unconditional. It only provides care at Cedars, and closes by stating, "We hope to provide you and your child an opportunity to limit the financial hardship this illness may impose." That was really big of Cedars. In essence they said they will take any insurance the families might have, but the parents must make the co-payments. Since the hospital created the problem don't you think they should bear the total burden of any financial responsibility?

In 2005, they denied requests to have prescriptions filled for a surviving victim because the prescription is not written by a Cedars physician!

In January 1992, I learned the late Helen Kushnick, former manager of Jay Leno, and executive producer of "The Tonight Show," had delivered twins, Sam and Sara, at Cedars a month before Anique was born. All three children were in the neo-natal unit at the same time, and all three were transfused.

I was able to make contact with Helen, who was very supportive. During a phone conversation in early March 1992, I mentioned that I was planning to appeal directly to the Board of Directors and Board of Governors of Cedars-Sinai for their help with regard to medical care. I asked if she knew where I could get a list of their names, home addresses and telephone numbers.

Fortunately, Helen said she had one, and even though it was eight years old, would fax it over to me. I don't know why, call it a stroke of fate or just dumb, blind luck, but as an afterthought, along with the list, Helen included deposition testimony given by her late husband, Jerrold. It was dated November 11, 1983, when they filed suit against Cedars for Sam's death.

On the second page of the first document Jerrold said, "We insisted that the other children who had been in the neo-natal unit with Sam and Sara be contacted in the hope we could possibly save another child's life."

Wait a minute, I thought! Anique was in the neo-natal unit at precisely the same time as the Kushnick twins. Why didn't Cedars notify me then, as Jerrold had specified? This was a startling revelation, and a bombshell!

Anique - i care All these years during which Cedars maintained that 1987 was when it first discovered Anique had received HIV infected blood I believed them. Now, in black and white was specific evidence that they had lied, and then covered up the lie. My mind went into overdrive. Those bastards knew about this for four years? They sat on it, and said nothing? Four years when everyone, including family and friends, that came into contact with Anique was at risk of contracting AIDS. Four years when my child should have been receiving treatment! I was devastated, and my blood began to boil!

With the help of two friends, neighbors who are lawyers, and Professor Michael H. Shapiro of the USC School of Law whose specialty is bio-ethics, I filed suit against Cedars, March 6, 1993. Unlike the Kushnick suit for negligence and malpractice (which was lost on appeal), my case was brought for failure to disclose, an intentional tort issue, which allows for punitive damages. The specific causes of action were fraudulent concealment, breach of fiduciary duty, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Two months later, another dear friend, Bill Overton, introduced me to Johnnie Cochran, who substituted in as my attorney of record. The other lawyers continued to represent Nicole.

Johnnie and I met in the conference room of his office in May 1993. After the introductions I told him there was some visual material I wanted him to see before we talked further. He watched "A Current Affair" segment about Anique, entitled "Suffer the Little Children" that aired April 22, 1992. When it ended, Johnnie sat in stunned silence for about 10 to 15 seconds. Then he turned to me, and very emotionally, emphatically and sincerely said, "I want this case!"

I was fortunate have met Johnnie prior to his celebrity of representing Michael Jackson and O.J. Simpson. In my opinion, he ranks right up there with Dr. Joe Church. After three years of litigation and spending over $125,000 of his own money, Johnny never asked me for a penny!

Dr. Dennis Goldfinger, Chief of Transfusion Services at Cedars, who, incredibly and unbelievably, holds the same position today, was quoted in "Tainted Trust," an article in The Daily Breeze, August 9, 1992: "As far as informing the 33 other families after Sam's AIDS was identified, that would have been 'extremely dangerous', 'very treacherous,' Goldfinger says." "The hospital made a decision based on its best judgment." Their decision and best judgment held devastating and disastrous consequences for me, and the other families.

Anique - i care In a subsequent article in the Breeze September 19, the following year, Goldfinger is quoted again as saying "We had to weigh the benefits of perhaps informing certain people and letting them know vs. the panic of all the people informed whose babies were not affected, considering our inability to give them assurances that the babies were OK." In effect he is saying Cedar's concern was not in helping the sick children, but not alarming the parents of the healthy ones.

Here are two flat-out admissions by a Cedars physician, and department head no less, that the hospital intentionally, knowingly, and willfully kept the knowledge of HIV tainted blood transfusions from the families of recipients! This was just in neo-nates; how many adults were similarly infected during the same time period, and not told?

Vicki Hufnagel, MD, a staff physician at Cedars from 1980, until early 1984, voiced alarm about the Medical Center's attitude in recruiting blood from high-risk donors in a meeting with hospital officials prior to 1984. She expressed serious concerns "that the hospital was actively soliciting blood donations from the West Hollywood community" with its large homosexual population.

Fearing that the virus was transmitted by body fluids, she cautioned such donations were "not medically sound, ill advised and was life threatening to any and all persons undergoing blood transfusions."

Cedars-Sinai's response was "the blood was free, and that the purpose of the drive was to keep operating costs down." Once again, the hospital's concern was not the welfare of patients, but their own finances!

During discovery in December 1994, Cedars produced four letters from Dr. Goldfinger, and the one sole individually named defendant. The first dated December 29, 1983, identified a second case of post-transfusion related AIDS; Sam Kushnick being the first. This letter led to the identity of the donor, and the specific transfusion that took Anique's life. Cedars' records show this individual gave blood 17 times at the hospital between 1979 and 1982. And, the hospital still steadfastly maintains it cannot locate him-alive or dead!

The other letters were dated November 15, 1984, and April 9, 1985: the last after the first effective test for AIDS was approved by the FDA. Three of the letters were addressed to the Los Angeles County Health Department (LADHS), and the fourth to the American Red Cross.

I vividly recall asking Wil Harris, the attorney sitting next to me from Johnnie Cochran's office who was litigating the case, "Is this the smoking gun we've been looking for?" His answered, "This is as close as we're going to get to it."

With this information, there can be no doubt that Cedars-Sinai, as well as the LADHS and the CDC, had to have been aware of as many as 24 cases of post-transfusion related AIDS by the close of 1983. Still, I received no notification from Cedars until February 1987! Moreover, there was never any notification from the L.A. County Health Department whatsoever, or from CDC.

Anique - i care The real irony, I subsequently learned, is that Anique was only given 40ccs of blood; four transfusions of 10ccs each during the three weeks she was in the neo-natal unit at Cedars Sinai. And, it was the very last one that ultimately took her life! The sole reason for these transfusions was not because they were required for any medical reason, but merely to replace blood taken for testing!

A lower court granted Cedars Motion for Summary Judgment in 1995, ruling that there are no triable issues of fact. On the basis of the issue of standard of care, it said that even though what Cedars was doing was wrong (not notifying) they are absolved from any liability because everyone else was doing it; that makes it right. That twisted logic is flawed, perverse and obscene and could be used to justify the Holocaust!

If it's right, it's right even if no one is doing it! If it's wrong, it's wrong even if everyone is doing it!

An appeal was filed and dismissed on a procedural issue in March 1998.

Subsequently, I requested from the CDC and the LADHS under the Freedom or Information Act and California Public Records Act all documents pertaining to Anique, either by name or code identifier. Common sense tells me that if any government agency provided funding for the "look-back" study that revealed Anique's HIV status, there simply has to be more than just the four letters Cedars provided during discovery.

What is more distressing is that I made my first Freedom of Information Act request in 1997. Four times CDC responded by saying they had nothing in their files; I appealed four times. In 1998, my congresswoman, Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), also made the same request of CDC. She too, was told that nothing could be found. Yet, on April 24, 2003 CDC notified me that all documents were destroyed in January 1999!

Cedars, on the other hand, says they are a not-for-profit institution, and not obligated under FOIA to provide any documents. The inference there is that they have the documents, but are not going to release them.

Anique - i care A glaring absence is that there is no reply from the L.A. County Health Department to the three letters Cedars sent them in 1983, 1984, and 1985. And, since the CDC provided funding for this "look-back" study, why was there no correspondence from them to Cedars? Or from Cedars to the CDC? Strange how there is not one single letter or document anywhere connecting the three?

Why is there no paper trail? What happened to all of this material? A four-year $2,000,000 federally funded study with the money flowing from the CDC, to the LADHS, and finally to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. And, the only documents that survive are four letters? I don't think so. It's there; they either failed to produce it, destroyed it or, what? These documents just didn't vanish!

I tried, unsuccessfully, to arrange a personal meeting with my County Supervisor, Don Knabe, then Chairman of the Los Angeles County Board or supervisors: the Board that governs the LADHS. Perhaps, he believes stonewalling me will somehow get me to quit. Not a chance!

All of this, the absence of documents and the unwillingness of local public officials to meet with me personally makes me very suspicious. At the very least, I truly believe that there was collusion or a conspiracy between these entities to intentionally and deliberately withhold information regarding Anique's condition from me, and the other children's families as well; a major cover-op!

I can only speculate as to the motive for this. With Cedars it is clearly money. But with the others I suspect it was a sense of panic. In 1983 the AIDS virus was in its infancy. Not knowing what to do in the face of such a devastating tragedy might have led these people to say and do nothing.


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