1,200 Surgical Patients May Have Been Infected by Imperfectly Sterilized Instruments
If you underwent a surgical procedure at Goshen Hospital between April 1 and Sept. 30, 2019, you may have been exposed to blood-borne illnesses including HIV and Hepatitis B and C. A technician error resulted in instruments missing 1 of 7 typical sterilization steps between uses.
The hospital sent out letters to 1,182 patients who were identified as at risk, but even if you did not receive a letter, you should reach out if you think you may have been affected. Though a press release from hospital leadership called the chance of patient infection “extremely remote” due to the fact that all instruments were still sterilized using chemicals, machine disinfection, ultrasonic cleaning, and high temperatures and pressures, they are offering free lab tests to all patients who were affected. They have set up a call center for the affected group.
A Lab Test May Not Be Enough
Though we believe Goshen Hospital has done the right thing by reaching out to affected patients and offering follow-up services for free, their response is not fully congruous with patient needs. A blood test may not reveal the presence of HIV or hepatitis viruses for months after their transmission. That means even someone whose test comes back clean today could find out months down the road that they are infected. Further, both viruses can be transmitted during sex, which increases the potential risk pool much beyond the original thousand patients identified.
The Medical Risks of Infection
For any patient who may have contracted an infection despite the hospital’s reassurance, the rest of their life may live under the shadow of one of these diseases. There’s a reason sterilization procedures consist of 7 steps: Some viruses can survive extreme environments. Transmission, when it happens, has serious consequences.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
HIV can survive outside of the body, but is sensitive to both the heat and acidity levels of its surroundings. This makes it likely the hospital’s sterilization procedures caught and killed any copies of the virus on surgical instruments.
HIV can cause acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). By attacking the T cells in patients’ immune systems, HIV puts them at risk for infection from other sources. Thankfully, there are treatments to keep HIV in check; however, there is no cure that will remove the virus from a patient’s body for good. A consistent medication routine can help reduce the level of the virus in a patient’s blood, reducing its effects and preventing transmission to sexual partners.
Hepatitis B and C
Hepatitis B and C both infect the liver and can be responsible for a one-time (acute) or lifelong (chronic) illness. Though scientists have created a vaccine for hepatitis B that will protect patients if they are exposed, there is no similar vaccine for hepatitis C. Those who do contract either virus as an acute infection do not have any options for treatment. There are medications that can slow the damage caused by hepatitis B and can cure hepatitis C. However, both infections cause cirrhosis (scarring) and could therefore lead to liver failure or liver cancer.
Addressing the Harms of Medical Malpractice
For patients who contract infections through doctor error or negligence, of course the cost of any required treatment should be covered by the at-fault practice. However, this is only one of the damages plaintiffs may request. An illness or treatment regimen may result in lost wages if the patient has to miss work. Further, their life may be affected in less material, but still very important, ways. Chronic illness can affect the quality of one’s day-to-day experiences, their relationships with loved ones, and cause either physical or emotional pain and suffering. Especially in a situation like this, where the viruses implicated can be spread through intimate contact, a plaintiff stands to lose their closest relationship(s).
An experienced lawyer can help you identify the full scope of your legal options after a case of medical malpractice. If you’re dealing with a new illness, you may be so overwhelmed by learning more and exploring potential therapies that you don’t even think of other ways your future prospects may be damaged. If you or a loved one were a surgery patient at Goshen Hospital between April 1st and September 30th, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. We’ll meet with you for a free consultation so you can understand your rights and options before making your next move.
Reach out online or call us at (888) 398-2277 to learn more about cases against Goshen Hospital.