A New York medical malpractice jury returned its verdict in the amount of $5.1 million in favor of the plaintiff, who alleged in her New York medical malpractice lawsuit that the defendant physicians’ negligence caused her to become infected with Hepatitis C during a routine colonoscopy that they had performed. The plaintiff alleged that a prior patient who had undergone a colonoscopy shortly before her procedure had an identical strain of the Hepatitis C virus and that inadequately cleaned medical equipment and/or inadequate sterilization procedures led to her becoming infected.
The 48-year-old woman had a routine colonoscopy procedure performed under anesthesia in March 2008. Six weeks after her colonoscopy, the woman experienced abdominal pain that was accompanied with nausea and vomiting. She went to the hospital for diagnosis and treatment, where she was diagnosed with acute Hepatitis C despite no prior history of Hepatitis C and no risk factors for acquiring the virus. As required by New York law, her case was reported to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
The plaintiff’s New York medical malpractice lawyers brought a medical negligence lawsuit on her behalf against the gastroenterologist and the anesthesiologist who performed the plaintiff’s colonoscopy procedure, alleging that there was a genetic match between the plaintiff’s strain of the Hepatitis C virus and the Hepatitis C virus of an earlier colonoscopy patient, indicating that the endoscope, biopsy forceps, or needles used during the plaintiff’s procedure were contaminated with the Hepatitis C virus most likely due to improper sterilization procedures.
The New York medical malpractice jury rejected the defendants’ arguments that the plaintiff had acquired the Hepatitis C virus prior to the colonoscopy that they had performed, that they had used different medical instruments on the plaintiff than used on the prior Hepatitis C-positive patient, and that they had followed accepted medical practices in the procedure that they had performed on the plaintiff.
The New York medical malpractice jury determined that the defendant gastroenterologist was 60% responsible and the defendant anesthesiologist was 40% responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries and damages. Nonetheless, the defendants have filed post-trial motions regarding the trial and the New York medical malpractice jury’s verdict.
How Common Is The Transmission Of Viruses During Colonoscopies?
On January 22, 2016, a Massachusetts hospital sent letters to 293 patients who had colonoscopies at the hospital between June 2012 and April 2013, advising them that they were at risk of having been exposed to blood-borne pathogens, such as HIV and Hepatitis, during their procedures, due to improper disinfection techniques used on colonoscopes. The hospital had begun using new colonoscopes in June 2012 but continued to use the same disinfection techniques that it had used on its older equipment (the failure of proper training led to inadequate disinfection of the new endoscopes between procedures because the single water irrigation channel of the new equipment was not adequately exposed to high-level disinfection during the last phase of the cleaning). It was not until April 2013 that the hospital received new equipment and training to insure the appropriate level of disinfection.
The CDC has stated that there are more outbreaks linked to contaminated endoscopes than with other medical devices, which is a major concern inasmuch as there are over 50 million colonoscopies performed in the United States every year.
If you or a loved one were diagnosed with a serious infection such as HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, or other virus following a colonoscopy or other procedure during which an endoscope was used, you should promptly consult with a medical malpractice lawyer in your state who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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