David Kwiatkowski, 34, a cardiac technologist who bounced from one hospital to another despite being fired from at least four hospitals, has been convicted of stealing painkillers and infecting 46 or more people with hepatitis C.
Kwiatkowski stole painkillers from syringes and replaced the medication with saline. The syringes became tainted with his own blood which in turn infected the patients he was supposed to be caring for. Patients in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Kansas were infected by hepatitis C of the same strain as Kwiatowski.
Kwiatkowski pleaded guilty on August 16 and was sentenced to 39 years in prison.
Hepatitis C is a blood borne disease that causes inflammation of the liver. It can spread when a person is exposed to the blood of a person who has the virus. Of those exposed to the hep-C virus, 75%-85% suffer chronic hep-C. Hepatitis C symptoms do not appear until the infected person suffers serious liver damage including cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer. The infection can result in death.
Some people, like the victims in this case, can become infected to hepatitis C in a healthcare setting. Blood transfusions and organ transplants as well as tainted hospital equipment including reuse of needles,syringes, and infusion bags can transmit infection.
Are the hospitals at fault?
The victims in this case may file civil suits against the hospitals where they were infected claiming that the hospitals were negligent in hiring for failing to investigate Kwiatowski’s background.
Drug abusing medical care workers can do a lot of harm to the patients that they are charged with caring for. Just last month in nearby Kirkland, Washington, a plastic surgery patient suffered a seizure after a registered nurse substituted the Fetanyl medication the woman should have been given with a stimulant. While the patient did not become infected with hepatitis, the seizure could have been life threatening.
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