Home E-Weekly January 23, 2018

Did Hospital Reuse HIV Patient's Syringe to Administer Anesthesia?

Published: January 22, 2018

CONTAMINATED The patient argues the hospital staff put him at risk by reusing a needle that had been used on someone who was HIV-positive.

A patient is suing a Chicago hospital, claiming that during his surgery staff members reused a syringe that had been used on an HIV-positive patient.

The patient, who remained anonymous and was only listed as John Doe in the Jan. 17 complaint, says he went to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Ill., in February 2017, for a hernia repair. During his procedure, a staff member at the hospital, who is unnamed in the suit, gave him anesthesia with a used syringe, according to a copy of the lawsuit. The syringe had been used before on a patient who was "known to be HIV-positive," the suit says.

After the incident, hospital staff drew the patient's blood to test it for HIV without telling the patient what happened and without asking for his consent, the suit says. During a scheduled follow-up 10 days later, the surgeon, Charles Hogue, MD, chair of the department of anesthesiology at the hospital, told the patient his syringe had been used before. The surgeon didn't tell the patient that the syringe had been used on someone who was HIV-positive, though he said there was, "no risk" to the patient's health, the suit says.

The patient followed up with the hospital to get more information on any potential health risks, but it wasn't until late March that an infectious disease specialist, Teresa Zembower, MD, associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told the patient that the syringe had been used on an HIV-positive person. She said the hospital would pay for his blood tests to screen for HIV and hepatitis, the suit says.

The patient sought treatment for exposure to HIV from the University of Chicago after speaking with Dr. Zembower, but was told that it was "too late for antiretroviral medicines to be of any benefit," the suit says.

A hospital spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

The patient is suing the hospital for reckless endangerment and medical battery for reusing the syringe, and fraudulent concealment for neglecting to tell him about the incident, the suit said. The hospital is the only defendant named in the suit. None of the doctors or staff involved is named as a defendant.

Anna Merriman

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