Miami veteran sues VA hospital after contracting hepatitis C

After the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs conducted its own investigation at three VA hospitals in 2009, the Administrative Investigation Board discovered that more than 11,000 veterans had been given colonoscopies with unclean equipment. One of those hospitals included the Miami Veterans’ Administration hospital. The colonoscopies were performed between 2004 and 2009 and put thousands of veterans at risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B.

So far, 11 lawsuits have been settled out of court in Miami over the emotional stress the incident has caused, but this week, the first medical malpractice lawsuit regarding the incident will go to trial in a Miami federal court. A 69-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran is suing after he discovered that he tested positive for hepatitis C in 2009.

The man had a colonoscopy performed at the Miami VA hospital in 2007.

After the 2009 investigation by the VA, it was discovered that the hospitals were only rinsing the equipment after performing colonoscopies. However, the manufacturer of the equipment clearly stated that the equipment needed to be sterilized by steam and other chemicals after each procedure. The VA’s investigation also reported that the Miami hospital had failed to provide adequate training, supervision and communication regarding colonoscopy procedures.

The Miami man and thousands of other veterans were notified after the investigation that they needed to return to the hospital for testing to make sure that they were not affected by the contaminated equipment used during their colonoscopies. When the man went in for his blood test in March 2009, he was told that he had tested positive for hepatitis C.

The vet, who is married and has three grown children with his wife, is suing for $30 million. The man’s attorney explained that he has been devastated by the incident. “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,” the attorney stated.

Individuals who undergo surgery and other medical treatment trust that doctors and nurses are taking every precaution necessary to ensure that patients are properly cared for. Failing to meet certain medical and safety standards can put the lives of patients in danger of contracting other illnesses and suffering other injuries or death. Those who have suffered as a result of negligence may be entitled to receive compensation for their damages.

Because the Florida man’s lawsuit is the first to go to trial regarding the improper colonoscopy procedures at the Miami VA hospital, the trial could open the doors for many other vets who may have also contracted diseases from colonoscopies performed at the hospital between 2004 and 2009.

Source:The Miami-Herald: “First VA colonoscopy case goes to trial after Miami vet contracted hepatitis C,” Fred Tasker, 10 July 2011