Today's medical malpractice post will take a closer look at how federal investigators uncovered a widespread failure to properly sterilize colonoscopy equipment at three VA hospitals.
As people age, physicians recommend that they undergo a battery of annual tests/checkups in order to make sure that they are healthy. One of these recommended tests is a colonoscopy, which can help detect the presence of colon cancer. For those unfamiliar with a colonoscopy, it is essentially a procedure in which a physician uses a thin, flexible camera (a colonoscope) to examine the inner lining of the large intestine via video monitor.
Unfortunately, thousands of veterans who chose to undergo colonoscopies were informed in 2009 that the equipment used in their procedures was not properly sterilized, a scenario that has resulted in the development of adverse health consequences for many.
An investigation by the VA's Administration Investigation Board revealed that between 2004-2009 over 11,000 colonoscopies were performed at three different VA hospitals (Miami, Florida; Murfreesboro, Tennessee; Augusta, Georgia) using improperly sterilized equipment.
Specifically, the investigators determined that rather than cleaning the colonoscopy equipment with steam and chemicals (as indicated by the equipment manufacturer), hospital staff simply rinsed it with water after each patient use. (Inspection of colonoscopy equipment purportedly sterilized revealed traces of "discolored liquid and debris.")
After informing the 11,000-plus patients of the results of the investigation, five have since tested positive for HIV, eight have since tested positive for hepatitis B and 25 have since tested positive for hepatitis C.
Not surprisingly, many patients who have been sickened by this tragic medical mistake have chosen to file medical malpractice lawsuits in the three states.
"He feels terrible about it," said Miami attorney Ervin A. Gonzalez, whose Air Force veteran client contracted hepatitis C. "He always took great care of himself. He ran, swam, ate healthy so he could have a good quality of life, and now he ends up with a serious health problem."
Stay tuned for more from our Texas medical malpractice blog ...
If you lost a loved one to what you believe was physician negligence or were seriously injured by a surgical error, you should strongly consider contacting an experienced legal professional.
This post was for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal or medical advice. Names have been withheld to protect the identity of the parties.