Most people rarely, if ever, are forced to deal with life-altering events. As a law firm specializing in personal injury litigation, we deal with tragic life-altering events every day. Every once in a while, however, our law firm is able to not only help our clients make the best out of a life-altering situation, but we are able to effect change; the kind of change that helps ensure that others will not fall victim to the same atrocities that impact our clients’ lives.
For many in the Las Vegas valley, one of those life-altering events occurred on February 27, 2008. It was on this day that the Southern Nevada Health District (“SNHD”) began sending out over 60,000 letters to individuals notifying them that they were potentially exposed to Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B or HIV as a result of an endoscopic procedure performed on them at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada. Time essentially stood still as many valley residents anxiously waited for the results of the blood tests indicating whether or not they had contracted Hepatitis or HIV. Most valley residents were able to breathe a sigh of relief when their results came back negative, but for dozens of others, they were informed that they had contracted Hepatitis C.
A number of those valley residents infected with Hepatitis C as a result of their procedure at the Endoscopy Center have explained that this disease has impacted every aspect of their life, as Hepatitis C is a disease that has no cure. Some infected residents have explained that because of the disease, they are unable to hug their grandchildren because they are afraid of possibly infecting them. Others have explained that they can no longer sleep with their spouse and that any form of intimacy they used to have has since diminished as a result of the disease. A consistent theme from valley residents inflicted with Hepatitis C is that their lives will never be the same because of the social stigma that they now suffer from.
As the news of the outbreak spread, residents of the valley became outraged and the valley’s eyes turned to the legal system for answers. The District Attorney’s office filed criminal charges against Doctor Desai and a number of other individuals directly involved with the outbreak. Multiple grand juries have been convened and have ultimately indicted Doctor Desai and others for murder, fraud and conspiracy. A number of civil lawsuits have been filed against medical professionals, drug companies, and insurance companies. As a result of the aforementioned legal proceedings, a number of individuals and corporations were forced to file for bankruptcy. Every part of Nevada’s legal system has been inundated with all types of challenges. Calls from those residents affected by the outbreak have become commonplace at our office and being in a position to effect change we knew we had to do our part to prevent such outbreaks from occurring again in the future.
As the legal proceedings began and further investigations were conducted, the injection practices at the Endoscopy Centers became the center of attention and ultimately, the SNHD’s investigation concluded that the unsafe injection practice at the Endoscopy Centers was the cause of the Hepatitis C outbreak. In fact, the injection practices at the Endoscopy Centers and the Hepatitis C outbreak in Las Vegas even drew national attention from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”). After the outbreak, the CDC began implementing the One and Only Campaign in hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers all across the country. This campaign reminded medical providers that to prevent infections, it is important to only use one needle and one syringe once. There can be little doubt that the breadth of the Las Vegas outbreak has encouraged change in medical communities across the country.
Despite the tragedy that has affected so many, some gratification can be garnered in the changes made to injection practices across the United States. Being in a position to effect change in the community and in our clients’ lives is gratifying and fulfilling. This provides the motivation and is truly the driving force behind what we strive to accomplish as a law firm.
Eglet Wall, www.egletwall.com