Patients suing the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas for potential exposure to hepatitis C and other blood-borne diseases, are being allowed to claim emotional distress
in a class-action lawsuit.
Attorneys for the Endoscopy Center argued that patients that did not contract a disease should not be able to claim emotional distress. They believe that patients should only be able to use this defense if they suffered a physical injury.
However, District Judge Allan Earl denied the clinic’s motion to dismiss, claiming that the mental anguish of potential exposure to a disease could lead to physical symptoms.
On January 2, 2008, the CDC was contacted about two people diagnosed with acute hepatitis C. Since then there have been 8 more people found to have contracted the disease.
The outbreak was announced in February and it is estimated that over 50,000 patients who visited the clinic were exposed to the blood-borne disease, making it the nation’s largest patient notification.
It was found that the clinic was not using clean syringes for each patient anesthetized there.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne infectious disease that infects the liver. The disease can remain dormant for many years without any sign of symptoms while it causes damage to the body.
The symptoms of hepatitis C are usually liver damage, jaundice, and fatigue. The disease is generally transmitted by sharing contaminated syringes. Patients who received treatment at the Endoscopy Center were notified to be tested for hepatitis strains B and C, and for HIV.
The latest patient to test positive did not become ill within the six-month incubation period, therefore the case is chronic, whereas all the other patients have acute hepatitis C. Chronic hepatitis can result in cirrhosis and liver cancer. Currently there is no vaccine against hepatitis C.
The Southern Nevada Health District and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe that nurse anesthetists transmitted the disease on either July 25 or September 21 of 2007. In May, the CDC reported that one nurse from the clinic said that reusing syringes and single-dose vials of a sedative was one of the instructions that the staff received. The clinic was reusing syringes from March 2004 to January, when the first reports of the disease came to light.