The family of a 41-year-old patient who died in January at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center is suing the company responsible for making the duodenoscope that caused the deadly infection. The family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Olympus Corp. in Los Angeles County Superior Court. According to the lawsuit, the patient was exposed to a contaminated Olympus duodenoscope during multiple operations at the end of last year, and as a result “suffered significant injury and died.” The lawsuit additionally accuses Olympus of negligently and fraudulently marketing the defective duodenoscope in an attempt “to maximize sales and profits at the expense of the health and safety of the public.”
The patient in question was one of two who died at the beginning of the year after being exposed to a contaminated duodenoscope at the UCLA medical center. Duodenoscopes are a type of medical instrument used to diagnose and treat cancer, gallstones, and other digestive system problems. Health officials say that due to the hard-to-clean design of Olympus’s duodenoscopes, highly antibiotic-resistant bacteria called Carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE) were able to survive inside the device.
Only two weeks after the outbreak at the UCLA medical center, four more patients were found with CRE infections at yet another LA hospital. These patients were similarly exposed during duodenoscope procedures at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Health experts again pointed the finger at defectively designed duodenoscopes and lax manufacturer guidelines for how to disinfect them.
In response to these incidents, the FDA announced that it would begin enforcing stricter standards for reusable medical devices like duodenoscopes. The agency is now requesting that manufacturers provide scientific evidence that their products can be safely disinfected.
Incidents of hospital-acquired infections such as these raise concerns about whether hospitals, device-manufacturers, and health care regulators are doing enough to protect the health of patients. Despite evidence of improvement in recent years, hospital-acquired conditions remain an ongoing problem in U.S. health care facilities.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have estimated that 1 in 25 hospitalized patients acquire an infection, and roughly 722,000 hospital-acquired infections result in or contribute to 75,000 deaths each year in the United States. Although the federal government has implemented a penalty system to help reduce rates of hospital-acquired conditions, medical experts say more can and should be done.
If you believe you or someone you know acquired an infection after a duodenoscope procedure, contact the experienced attorneys at Lopez McHugh immediately for a free consultation. You may be entitled to compensation through a medical malpractice or product liability lawsuit.