Life Sentence for Hep C Outbreak Doc
Las Vegas gastroenterologist's CRNA co-defendant gets 7 to 21 years in prison.
Published: October 25, 2013
Dipak Desai, MD, co-owner of the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas and the man at the center of the largest hepatitis C outbreak in U.S. history, was sentenced to life in prison Thursday, with parole possible at 18 years.
CRNA Ronald Lakeman, his former colleague at the center and his co-defendant in the criminal trial stemming from the 2007 outbreak, received 7 to 21 years in prison for failing to alert authorities to Dr. Desai's misdeeds, said the sentencing judge.
The two were convicted in July after a 2-month trial. Dr. Desai, 63, was found guilty of all 27 charges he'd faced, including second-degree murder for an infected patient's April 2012 death. Mr. Lakeman, 66, was acquitted of murder, but was found guilty of 16 of the charges, which included criminal neglect and insurance fraud.
While Dr. Desai's attorneys maintained during the trial that the outbreak had been an unforeseen incident, and sought a lenient sentence based on their client's now-frail health, prosecutors argued that the physician's greed had led him to conduct unsafe propofol injection practices, cut corners on endoscope reprocessing, overload and rush case schedules, and submit falsified anesthesia records to insurers.
District Judge Valerie Adair agreed that he had placed the community at risk. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, she saw "no worse betrayal of trust" or disregard for well-being than Dr. Desai's failure to uphold standards of quality patient care.
The defendants' lawyers have announced plans to appeal the sentences. CRNA Keith Mathahs, 77, who was indicted along with Dr. Desai and Mr. Lakeman in June 2010, testified during the trial as part of a plea deal and is scheduled to be sentenced next week. He faces 28 to 72 months' imprisonment.
Since the July convictions, another of the 7 hepatitis-C-infected patients has died. The Review-Journal says prosecutors are uncertain as to whether they'll seek a murder conviction for that death.
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