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Faulty sterilization implicated in bacterial infection outbreak

A contaminated medical instrument in a hospital setting can create a swath of patient injuries, as a recent story illustrates.

According to the preliminary estimate, up to 179 patients at a single facility may have been infected by two contaminated scopes used in throat examinations. Seven infections have been confirmed, and two of those seven patients have died. 

Doctors typically use the scopes, called duodenoscopes, to assess digestive and cancer issues. The devices should have been sterilized between patient examinations.  Instead, they served as means of spreading carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE. Notably, the CRE bacteria is spread by touch, rather than being airborne.

Unfortunately, the CRE bacteria is also resistant to antibiotics. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to half of patients who are infected with the bacteria might suffer fatal complications.

Officials at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have stated that they are exploring better sterilization techniques for the duodenoscopes. Yet shouldn’t doctors, nurses and other hospital staff have already known of this potential risk? Sterilization of medical instruments is a standard expectation of professional medical care.

It remains to be seen how the exposed patients will respond to this outbreak. However, a medical malpractice attorney that focuses on hospital negligence may have strategies for maximizing the compensation that is due to these victims and their surviving loved ones. Although no amount of compensation can take the place of a loved one, proving medical negligence and achieving justice in a court of law can honor a loved one’s memory. Hospitals should always be made to answer for negligent medical treatment or procedures. 

Source: Newsweek, “Superbug Kills Two at UCLA; 179 Others May Have Been Exposed,” Douglas Main, Feb. 19, 2015

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