CRNA Involved in Vegas Hep C Outbreak Cops Plea
Aging anesthetist hopes to avoid significant jail time in exchange for key testimony.
Published: December 12, 2012
Keith Mathahs, CRNA, apparently decided whatever time he has left with his family is more important than protecting colleagues accused of starting a hepatitis C outbreak in Las Vegas that put thousands of patients at risk and left 1 patient dead.
The 76-year-old anesthetist pleaded guilty for his role in the 2007 outbreak in order to avoid facing 28 felony counts of racketeering, neglect of patients, insurance fraud and second-degree murder. He now faces 5 criminal counts, including neglect of patients, and a maximum 6-year jail sentence. In exchange for the plea, he'll now testify against gastroenterologist Dipak Desai, MD, and Ronald Lakeman, CRNA, in a trial scheduled to begin in April.
As reported here, Mr. Mathahs, Dr. Desai and Mr. Lakeman were indicted for reusing contaminated vials of propofol between patients. The 3 defendants were also accused of submitting falsified anesthesia records to insurers for reimbursement under false pretenses, limiting the use of supplies needed for safe endoscopic procedures, failing to properly clean endoscopes, and overloading case schedules and rushing through procedures in order to boost their facility's bottom line.
Michael Cristalli, the attorney for Mr. Mathahs, says the possibility of being found guilty of multiple felonies and slapped with a jail term that would have essentially been a life sentence put a lot of pressure and stress on his client's family.
Lead prosecutor Michael Staudaher believes Mr. Mathahs's decision to take the stand will strengthen the state's case. "You've got one of the individuals who was involved in the conspiracy now agreeing to testify," he says.
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