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Last week the New York state health officials informed over 600 patients of Dr. Harvey Finkelstein, anesthesiologist, after learning that the doctor may have put his patients at risk by reusing syringes. They began investigating Finkelstein back in 2005 after two of his patients contracted hepatitis C. In 2005 officials notified 98 epidural recipients of possible infection after the two cases were reported. No additional cases resulted from those tested. The New York Health Commissioner has identified 628 patients that could have been possibly infected from Jan. of 2001 and Jan. 2005.

Finkelstein claims that he did use a different needle for every patient, but sometimes used the same needle to give additional shots to the same person. This created a cross contamination risk between multidose bottles. Finkelstein reportedly stopped reusing needles when the health officials took not of it.

This warning to Finkelstein’s patients has been almost three years coming now and many are outraged that the government took such a lengthy amount of time to notify persons that could have contracted such life threatening diseases as HIV and hepatitis. A New York Times editorial offered harsh criticism of the situation and the way it was handled by health officials.

It “seems inexcusable” that it took the state almost three years to notify people under Finkelstein’s care that they should be tested for HIV and hepatitis, the editorial says, adding that it will be necessary to determine if the state’s investigatory and disciplinary process is “tilted too much toward protecting doctors rather than any patients who may have been harmed.” Plans by state officials to eliminate multidose vials “would provide the surest protection against such contamination and not leave patients at the mercy of a doctor’s ignorance or carelessness,” the editorial concludes (New York Times, 11/17).

For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Medical Malpractice and Negligent Care.

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