UnitedHealth Insurance Company Held Liable for Doctor’s Errors in Hepatitis Outbreak

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

The greatest hepatitis outbreak in the nation took place in Las Vegas, where 50,000 patients may have been exposed to hepatitis C because of unhygienic practices. UnitedHealth Group Inc(UNH) is the largest medical insurer whose Nevada unit was accused of a lack of oversight on a 62-year old Las Vegas doctor. Dipak Desai, a former gastroenterologist, was mishandling the anesthetic Propofol and thus giving colonoscopy patients Hepatitis C. Robert Eglet, an attorney for two women, Bonnie Brunson and Helen Meyer who contracted the disease, told jurors in state court in Las Vegas that UNH of Nevada Inc unit renewed contracts with Desai despite knowing about his poor medical practices.

Patients who were affected are suing the HMO companies for violation of the public safety rule, which requires an HMO company to put the insured members concerns first. Not only did Desai’s center reuse Propofol vials, but the center also failed to change fluid used to disinfect medical devices, cut corners on disposable medical napkins used to treat incontinence in patients, and reused biting blocks. According to Eglet, the outbreak turned out to be the largest Hepatitis C outbreak in United States history.

The Nevada unit’s officials failed to oversee his operations, and ultimately did not review Desai’s practices before hiring him. The unit continued to renew contracts with the doctor’s group despite knowing about the allegations against Desai and his failure to diagnose cancer and Crohn’s disease in many of his patients. Desai also executed colonoscopies in as little as three minutes, much shorter than the average time of more than twenty minutes. Health Plan officials of Nevada knew in the late 1990’s about Desai’s poor reputation after a doctor who was employed at one facility informed the company that Desai was compromising patient safety. The two women patients who contracted the disease, are suing the UnitedHealth unit under a Nevada law that requires HMO officials to file annual reports showing they have reviewed the quality of services provided to consumers covered by their plans.

In addition, there have been a number of lawsuits against Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, who manufactured the Propofol used by Desai. Teva Pharmaceuticals, which is based in Petach Tikya, Israel, agreed to pay $250 million to settle such cases over Propofol sales. Desai, along with two nurse anesthetists are facing federal fraud charges and second-degree murder charges over the death of a colonoscopy patient.

Our law firm has a medical malpractice team that is highly qualified for and experienced in handling such medical malpractice claims, as well as cases dealing with professional negligence. Our firm has handled a number of cases where viruses were transmitted due to medical malpractice. Such cases can be extremely complicated, which makes it essential for victims to speak to an individual who has the knowledge and experience to understand the complexities of their case. If you, or a loved one has been the victim of Medical Malpractice, contact an attorney at Rheingold, Giuffra, Ruffo & Plotkin LLP for a free consultation.

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