Who's Liable When Drugs Are Diverted?
Published: April 28, 2014
Do you rely on healthcare staffing agencies to fill nursing and tech positions? A recent federal ruling shows you might be legally responsible if contracted employees divert drugs.
The ruling revolves around David Kwiatkowski, a radiology technician who was sentenced to 39 years in federal prison last December for triggering a hepatitis C outbreak among 32 patients in 8 states. Mr. Kwiatkowski had pleaded guilty to tampering with consumer products and obtaining controlled substances by fraud after his 2012 arrest in New Hampshire for stealing fentanyl intended for patient use.
In 2008, Mr. Kwiatkowski had been contracted to work at the Baltimore (Md.) Veterans Administration Medical Center. He was in the room when patient Linwood R. Nelson underwent a percutaneous catheterization of his right ureter to treat a kidney stone in May, and when Mr. Nelson had a thoracic CT scan in September. According to court records, before each case Mr. Kwiatkowski injected himself with fentanyl intended for Mr. Nelson and refilled the syringes with saline.
In August 2012, Mr. Nelson tested positive for hepatitis C, which healthcare authorities traced back to Mr. Kwiatkowski's actions. Mr. Nelson filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. government over the VA hospital's negligent staffing supervision and drug security practices.
The government faces allegations that the VA hospital failed to properly conduct a background check, secure and supervise its drugs and provide informed consent. Following a slate of pre-trial motions, the case may go before the judge next year.
The government's attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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