veterans infected by unsterilized colonoscopy equipment

Colonoscopy errors are, just by the nature of the procedure, particularly disturbing, since simply undergoing a colonoscopy leaves many patients feeling unusually vulnerable. For that reason, hospital negligence that makes a colonoscopy unacceptably dangerous is extremely harmful, both physically and psychologically.

This blog has reported on colonoscopy errors in the past, but the most recent reports of errors that took place in Veterans Administration hospitals in the South are even more egregious than those we have previously discussed. We have seen cases where colonoscopy equipment that should have been sterilized was only washed, and cases where single-use devices were washed and re-used. But in the new cases, the equipment in the affected VA hospitals was re-used without even being washed. It was merely rinsed off between procedures.

Pennsylvania hospital negligence attorneys are concerned because even though the improperly cleaned equipment was used in southern states, it was happening in multiple VA hospitals. Poor practices in VA hospitals that are not isolated to a particular facility or a particular worker indicate a pattern, and one that could be repeated at VA hospitals anywhere in the country.

A 69-year-old veteran who apparently contracted hepatitis C from improperly cleaned equipment has filed a medical malpractice suit alleging $30 million in damages. His case is set for trial this week, and may be just the first of many.

It is estimated that more than 11,000 veterans had colonoscopies performed with improperly cleaned equipment between 2004 and 2009. It is believed that, so far, a connection has been drawn to five veterans who have tested positive for HIV, twenty-five for hepatitis C and eight for hepatitis B. Eleven lawsuits that have been filed claiming emotional distress have settled out of court.

The dangers posed by health care that does not meet an accepted standard go beyond the actions or inactions of doctors. Hospitals and their employees have duties of care toward patients as well. When they fail to meet their duty of care, the harm is just as serious, and the damages are just as large, as malpractice cases related to care provided by a doctor.

Miami Herald “First VA colonoscopy case goes to trial after Miami vet contracted hepatitis C” 7/10/2011

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