Unclean, Unsterile, Unsafe: Risks of Injury from Unsterilized Medical Equipment

Introduction

Liability for Injuries from Unsterilized Instruments
More than 46 million surgical or other invasive medical procedures are performed each year in the United States. Proper disinfection or sterilization of equipment used in every procedure is essential to prevent infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the failure to comply with established sterilization guidelines sometimes occurs, leading to outbreaks of infection.

Sterilization procedures may be inadequate, may not be completed, or might be performed incorrectly exposing the patient to injury. Without proper sterilization, use of a medical instrument may introduce bacteria, viruses, or other potentially injurious substances into a patient.

Early in 2015, 179 patients at a Los Angeles hospital learned that they might have been exposed to a “super bug,” a drug-resistant bacteria from contaminated medical scopes. This bacteria, which had already been linked to two deaths, has the potential to be deadly in 40% to 50% of patients in whom infection spreads to the bloodstream.

Attorneys, physicians, hospitals, insurers, employers, and other potential parties to the litigation should be aware of the types of lawsuits and liability issues that can arise for injury from unsterilized medical instruments and equipment.