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Was outbreak due to hospital negligence or defective equipment?

Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) is just one of the antibiotic resistant superbugs that can be deadly to patients and is often contracted in hospitals across the country, including here in Illinois. A hospital on the west coast could be facing several lawsuits regarding CRE and the use of an endoscope manufactured by Olympus Corporation of the Americas. Any litigation that is filed will more than likely focus on whether it was hospital negligence, a defectively manufactured instrument or a combination thereof that led to the recent outbreak of CRE.

So far, two people have lost their lives, five others have active infections and several hundred others were exposed to the bacteria at the hospital. Complaints regarding the endoscope in question are not new. At least 75 complaints were received by the Food and Drug Administration concerning approximately 135 patients from Jan. 2013 through Dec. 2014 regarding the instrument. The agency recently reiterated to doctors that the endoscope requires careful sterilization in order to avoid any contamination.

At this point, the manufacturer and Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center are being careful not to blame each other for the outbreak. However, if lawsuits are filed, they could begin doing so. Hospitals across the country have had issues with this endoscope causing bacterial infections in patients. The company claims that the instructions are very specific regarding the device's need for meticulous cleaning, but that does not necessarily relieve it of any liability should litigation be filed against it.

Considering the fact that nearly half a million people undergo procedures involving this endoscope, it is possible that some people here in Illinois could be at risk of contracting a superbug such as CRE. It would be up to the courts to determine whether hospital negligence and/or manufacturer negligence caused the infection that led to serious injury or death. If the evidence shows that each of them bears some liability, the court could order each of them to pay a percentage of the damages awarded.

Source:, "Nasty court fight shaping up over 'superbug' outbreak", Brian Melley, Aug. 30, 2016

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