This story broke last week, but I’m just starting to catch up on it now: in Las Vegas, more than 100 people have tested positive for Hepatitis C and HIV after being treated at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada. Apparently, investigators have found that anesthesia needles were re-used on different patients without adequate cleaning, and in some cases, portions of the same dose of anesthesia was injected into multiple patients.
The person who founded the Center, who has also been its majority owner, is a doctor named Dipak Desai. Three class action lawsuits have been filed against the center, with more than 100 plaintiffs total. Doctor friends tell me it might be the biggest medical malpractice case in recent history (I have not been able to directly confirm this… any docs in the house?).
I haven’t come across anyone saying that Desai himself gave the order to use the syringes this way, though I gather that the anesthetists employed at the Endoscopy center were nurses rather than doctors (might be a little corner cutting there). Since the investigations started, the nurses employed at Desai’s clinics have given up their nursing licenses. As of now Desai has not given up his own medical license, though he has voluntarily agreed to not practice medicine until the investigations are complete. My own inclination is to “wait and see” before piling on against Desai: he ran several clinics, and employed many other doctors, nurses, and technicians. This particular policy, which has caused so much harm to so many people, may not have come from him.
Before this mess started, Desai was a very well-respected doctor in the state of Nevada; he had a $1 million contract with the University Medical Center, where he directed the gastroenterology department; and the governor had appointed him to the State Board of Medical Examiners. All of that is not to excuse him; rather, it helps give us some sense of the scope of this case. Incidentally, when two doctors working at his clinics had earlier complained about unsafe hygiene with syringes, the claims weren’t investigated.
I’m curious to know what people think about this case. Obviously, it doesn’t reflect the practices of Indian doctors more broadly (and I come from a medical family, so I’m quite proud of the contributions Indian-Americans have made in medicine in the U.S.). But it does seem like a terrible tragedy, and for the employees of this particular Endoscopy Center, a huge mess.