To be informed that the disregard of sterilization procedures in a hospital may have exposed an individual to a non-curable brain disorder would naturally cause an extremely high amount of stress. To have to live with the fear that the disorder may surface at any time could be unbearable for most. Even if the North Carolina hospital states that the risk caused by their negligence is very low, nobody should have to live with that constant concern.
This disturbing news was given to 18 patients who underwent neurosurgery at the Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center. It was explained that the hospital staff failed to use an extra sterilizing procedure after performing surgery on a patient with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. This extra procedure is required whenever a patient has CJD or if it is suspected that he or she has the disease. Although the disorder is not transferable through contact, being exposed to spinal cord fluid or brain tissue of an infected person could be dangerous.
CJD can take months or even years to present symptoms, but once those symptoms are present, death usually occurs within months. There have been several similar warnings issued to patients in other states over the past decade. It is being debated whether these patients should be advised of a possible threat to their lives. Some think that the risk is so low that those affected should not be subjected to years of anxiety over something that may never occur. Opposing that opinion, are those who think that people may want to prepare for the unforeseen circumstances.
If a medical provider’s actions deviate from the accepted standard of care and their negligence caused physical or mental harm, a victim of that negligence may retain the right to file a medical malpractice claim. In a similar case, 17 people from another state faced the same circumstances in 2011 and eventually settled with the hospital after filing claims. The 18 patients from the North Carolina hospital most likely have the right to file medical malpractice claims. Although monetary compensation will not remove the constant uncertainty about their futures, it may assist them to ensure their lives are in order and to be prepared for the unexpected.
Source: Los Angeles Times, Hospital error may put patients at risk of incurable disease, Paresh Dave, Feb. 12, 2014