Hospital worker pleads guilty to infecting patients with hepatitis

A hepatitis C outbreak in several states in 2011 has been traced to a hospital employee who purposely tainted needles in order to spread the disease. The worker is expected to be sentenced to up to 40 years in prison after pleading guilty to 14 criminal charges in connection with this frightening incident.

Thirty people in up to four states were infected with hepatitis C from needles that the man tainted, authorities say. This case may raise questions about whether the hospitals where they were sickened were negligent by failing to montior the defendant’s activities.

The defendant worked as a medical technician who took temporary jobs at hospitals in several states. He was diagnosed with hepatitis C in mid-2010. After that, he continued his work in at least four states. At each job, he would steal syringes of painkillers, inject himself, refill the syringe with saline and put them back. The tainted syringes were then used on patients.

Though the defendant’s reasons are not clear, his intentions were. He allegedly told an investigator, “I’m going to kill a lot of people out of this.”

It is terrifying to think how long this man was allowed to infect patients with a potentially fatal disease. Syringes are supposed to be sterile to protect patient safety, but that did not happen in this case. If the defendant was able to operate for so long because of lax oversight by his employers, those hospitals could potentially be financially liable for the infected patients’ financial damages, such as medical bills.

Source: CNN, “Hospital tech accused of multi-state hepatitis outbreak to plead guilty,” Holly Yan, Aug. 13, 2013

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