In Louisiana and other states, cross contamination during medical procedures can expose patients to a variety of illnesses. A medical patient in another state purportedly experienced this after she went in for a routine colonoscopy and within weeks came down with symptoms that lead to a diagnosis of Hepatitis C. She has since filed a medical malpractice claim against the doctors who handled the procedure. The patient had no existing risk factors for Hepatitis C, and her medical experts found a genetic tie between the viral strain of an earlier colonoscopy patient the defendants had treated and the woman’s strain. Under those circumstances, the jury concluded that there was a causal connection and came in with a verdict of $5.1 million in favor of the plaintiff and against two defendant doctors in a medical malpractice case.
The comparative strains allowed the plaintiff’s attorneys to argue to the jury that the instruments used in the procedure and perhaps the needles used by the anesthesiologist had become contaminated. The theory of recovery was not surprising or horrifying: the spread of disease in hospitals by failing to use sterile procedures has led to the spread of disease and death in hundreds, if not thousands, of known cases reported nationwide in just the past 10 years. As discussed in prior articles, surgical errors in general are a big source of medical malpractice claims.
With respect to unsterile surgical instruments and accessories, the advent of the AIDS epidemic and other invasive diseases in the past several decades have taught medical personnel to be scrupulously careful by checking and double-checking the purity and cleanliness of their tools and implements. However, as this case may demonstrate, the quantity of blood needed to share the disease may be minute. That is why disposable needles have become popular over the years.
The jury, however, being closer to the evidence than perhaps anyone, accepted the plaintiff’s expert testimony that there was cross contamination of the instruments. They rejected the defendants’ main counter-theory, which was that the patient had the disease even before the surgery. A claim like that is easy to make, but in a Louisiana court and courts in other jurisdictions, it must be backed by evidence in order to prevail in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Source: brooklyneagle.com, “SKETCHES OF COURT: Plaintiff awarded $5.1M in medical malpractice trial“, Alba Acevedo, Feb. 11, 2016