Failure to diagnose results in contamination crisis

Before a patient is admitted to surgery in the state of Maryland, a number of diagnostic tests are typically performed to ensure that surgeons and medical staff are aware of any pre-existing conditions, diseases or potential complications. In fact, some surgeries are delayed until the test results are in and physicians have the opportunity to review the findings. Because a surgery was performed on a patient before they were properly diagnosed with a neurological disorder, numerous other patients may now be at risk of contracting the disease.

Approximately one out of 1 million people around the world contract Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) every year. The rare condition affects the nervous system and is both contagious and incurable. As a result, the World Health Organization and the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mandate that a specific disinfecting technique be used to clean surgical devices used on patients diagnosed with CJD. Another option is to destroy the equipment altogether.

A medical center in North Carolina may now find itself in the midst of a serious medical malpractice case since it allegedly failed to properly disinfect surgical instruments used on a patient with CJD. The hospital’s failure to diagnose the disease in a timely manner resulted in the surgical equipment not being sterilized according to protocol. Ultimately, 18 surgery patients may have been exposed to the disease by way of contaminated surgical instruments.

The president of the hospital did recognize the situation and apologized to the patients and their families. According to the hospital, there is only a small chance that any of the patients actually contracted the disease, but the risk is still there.

Source: CNN, “Hospital to 18 patients: You may have been exposed to incurable disease,” Val Willingham, Feb. 10, 2014

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