Drug Diversion Can Cause Serious Injury to Innocent Hospital Patients
It is no secret that hospitals keep every imaginable medication in stock. While the drugs are well-secured, countless hospital employees have authorized access to them so they can care for patients. When anyone removes medications from the hospital supply for illicit purposes, many individuals can suffer, and questions arise relating to whether liability for this practice, known as drug diversion, extends beyond the offender, all the way to the hospital itself.
Drug diversion can affect patients in the following ways:
- Narcotics and other dangerous drugs are pushed on the streets, leading to drug overdoses, addiction and even gang shootings.
- Drugs become unavailable to patients who need them immediately for potentially life-saving treatment.
- Dosages on stored supplies are reduced when offenders siphon off portions of medicine containers and replace them with other substances to avoid discovery of the theft.
Patients can also receive reduced dosages when hospital employees take partial injections immediately prior to administering treatment, sometimes with effects that no one would expect. In December 2013, a former hospital worker received a 39-year prison sentence for a drug diversion scheme that caused a multi-state outbreak of hepatitis C. The offender, who was aware that he had hepatitis C, injected himself with painkillers from syringes intended for pre-surgical patients. Thirty patients received reduced doses of the medications intended for them — and worse, their reduced doses were contaminated with hepatitis C, an infectious disease that attacks the liver and can be fatal.
This case raises a number of legal questions pertaining to liability. Clearly, the offender was ultimately responsible for the spread of a dangerous illness. However, investigation revealed he was a contract employee with a prior history of similar acts elsewhere in the U.S., so the staffing agency that provided the worker and the hospital that hired him may have been negligent by failing to vet him properly. As negligence is the key determinant in medical malpractice and other personal injury cases, both entities could be found partially liable for enabling their patients to contract hepatitis C.
If you or a loved one has suffered undue injury or illness in La Plata or elsewhere in Maryland as a result of negligence, seek legal advice from a qualified attorney.