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Purposely reused needles putting patients at risk of infection

Purposely reused needles putting patients at risk of infection

Date: December 31, 2012

When Arlington Heights residents go to the doctor’s office or hospital, they frequently will receive an injection of medicine. The purpose of these injections is supposed to be to make patients feel better or treat an illness. But it appears that in at least 150,000 cases, doctors, nurses or other medical staff deliberately exposed their patients to dirty needles or used medicine. This form of medical malpractice puts patients at risk of contracting serious diseases such as MRSA or hepatitis C.

The 150,000 figure is provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It includes instances where medical professionals provide a fresh needle for each patient but reuse vials of medication and where a needle is used on more than one patient. Both go against federal guidelines and can cause outbreaks of infectious disease, often among people who are already ill with conditions such as cancer. Nevertheless, in a 2010 survey, 6 percent of clinic employees admitted “sometimes or always” using vials more than once and 1 percent said they routinely reused needles.

The CDC says that such outbreaks have occurred 49 times in the U.S. since 2001. Among them is a case where an oral surgeon reusing syringes infected at least six of his patients with HIV or hepatitis. In another incident, a clinic spread MRSA, a disease that is resistant to antibiotics, by treating multiple patients out of the same medicine vials.

Part of the problem is that certain types of clinics are lightly regulated by state health officials. Only one state has criminalized using dirty needles so far. Training may also be an issue. But the result is that doctors and nurses are harming their patients in a totally preventable way.

Source: USA TODAY, “Dirty medical needles put tens of thousands at risk in USA,” Peter Eisler, Dec. 26, 2012

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