In a breaking story: New Hampshire state officials said Wednesday that there is a possibility that eight patients may have been exposed to a rare and fatal brain disease. In what could turn out being one of the worst medical malpractice cases in recent times, we will have to wait and see what happens.
Officials said the exposure might have occurred due to surgery equipment that was used on a patient who was likely to have had the rare and incurable disease. According to officials in a news conference the patients that may have been exposed underwent brain surgery at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, N.H. The operations occurred between May and August of this year.
The patients were notified of the possible exposure, according to officials. Officials stated that the surgical equipment was rented from Medtronic, a Minneapolis based company and may have been used on at least five other patients in other states, before officials knowing there may be contamination from the original patient. So this raises issues of liability of the manufacturer and all people in the chain of custody of manufacture to sales. This is in the public interests to spread the burden and increase a recovery if any.
However, the state of the law is also the case that one cannot sue for fear of an as of yet, present disease. The eight patients in New Hampshire and the five other patients from other states are not being named, according to officials. According to specialists, the first patient showed symptoms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, when they underwent brain surgery in May, but it was not discovered until last month. The experts said that the standard methods of sterilizing surgical equipment before operations would not protect the surgical patients from this rare disease.
Health officials stated that the risk for the patients potentially exposed to the rare and deadly brain disease is extremely low, but after extensive expert discussion, the risk could not be entirely ruled out. Even minimal residues can survive being passed through incinerators, which is why it was determined the patients who were possibly exposed were notified.
According to the New Hampshire director of public health, Dr. Jose Montero said the patients had been provided with as much information as possible, and our sympathies are with all of the patients and their families. Dr. Montero stated that this is a difficult and confusing situation for the patients and their families, since they may be living with uncertainty for an extended amount of time.
The disease, Montero said can take years to develop and it is impossible to know whether the exposed patients will be affected by the illness, which eats away at the brain. According to officials, the eight New Hampshire patients range in age from their mid-30’s to their mid-80s. Due to privacy laws, health officials have not provided any other identifying information about the eight patients.
In any event, since Montero said the disease could take years to develop, these patients will probably suffer daily for the rest of their lives with this cloud over them. But the fact of the matter is, it would be near impossible for them to recover for fear of a disease until they develop a disease that is causally connected to the exposure.
At least that is what they taught us in law school. But see “Recovery for Emotional Distress for Exposure to AIDS.” But in any event, a person would still need proof of exposure, and here, the facts show that the patients “may” have been exposed. The damages appear to be too far attenuated to get a recovery here. If you want to learn more about brain injury law, contact Michael Ehline at (213) 596-9642.