The family of a 15-year-old New York boy thought they were helping him to live on by donating his organs.
Instead, the organs spread a rare, undiagnosed cancer to the four transplant recipients, according to a report from WCBSTV.com.
Alex Koehne of Sag Harbor, Long Island, died a year ago of lymphoma, but his parents were told he died from bacterial meningitis. Since then, two of the organ recipients have died and two others are battling the same disease, according to the report.
Jim and Lisa Koehne asked for an autopsy following their son's death, according to the report. A month later they found out Alex actually had died of a rare lymphoma; the organs, however, already had been donated.
The doctor "said, 'Jim I don't want to upset you, but we've heard something from the recipients that two of them had died from cancer,'" Jim Koehne told WCBSTV.com.
Koehne died a year ago at Stony Brook University Medical Center, Newsday reported last week.
The transmission of cancer through transplanted organs is rare, happening only about a handful of times annually, Newsday reported. The New York State Department of Health recently cleared Stony Brook and the New York University Medical Center, which received two of the organs, of any wrongdoing in the Koehne case.
NYU and the University of Minnesota, which also transplanted one of the diseased organs, have since changed their policies and now require stronger proof of bacterial meningitis, Newsday reported.