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Vet Contracts Hep C at VA Hospital, Awarded $1.25M

Air Force veteran Robert Metzler often visited the Miami Veterans Affairs Medical Center for routine procedures, including colonoscopies In 2007, Metzler had a colonoscopy and in 2009 received a letter from the VA’s administration warning him that he had been exposed to a “potential health risk” related to his procedure.

Metzler, who had tested negative for hepatitis C in 2006, was diagnosed with the disease just days after he received the warning letter. The letter informed Metzler that he was one of more than 11,000 veterans who had undergone colonoscopies with dirty equipment at VA hospital in Miami, Tennessee and Georgia. During the colonoscopy, the hospital never sterilized the equipment between patients; rather the equipment was simply rinsed. “Investigators who took apart water tubes on some of the equipment that was supposed to be clean and ready for use instead found ‘discolored liquid and debris.'”

Metzler and his wife filed a medical malpractice suit and asked for $30 million in damages. Judge Jordan awarded them $1.25 for their claim. The VA Hospital admitted that it had breached a duty of care to the patient, but denied that Metzler had contracted the disease during his colonoscopy. A board-certified doctor testified that there was “less than a 0 percent change” Metzler had contracted the disease through the procedure, but the judge disagreed. According to the ruling, “despite acknowledging that VA records ‘strongly suggest’ Metzler couldn’t have been infected by the colonoscopy, the veteran had no other risks associated with contracting the virus.”

Vet who contracted Hep C wins malpractice suit against VA hospital, November 21, 2012.

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