Product liability suits could be on the horizon for Olympus Corp

The safety of many medical procedures hinges on the ability to create a clean and sterile environment for patients in Ohio. This is especially true when a medical device must in some way enter a patient's body, such as duodenoscopes that are typically used for viewing a person's esophagus or duodenum. Olympus Corporation has recently been at the center of claims that its duodenoscope caused serious harm to hundreds of people, and the company could soon be facing product liability suits.

Approximately 25 different patient infection outbreaks have been linked back to the duodenoscope, most of which occurred in the United States. In total, about 250 patients were exposed to so-called superbugs that were largely antibiotic resistant, putting their lives at risk. During a patient outbreak in 2013, 32 patients were infected, 11 of whom later died.

Bacteria was able to live and thrive on the duodenoscopes despite repeated sanitizing procedures, the instructions for which were supplied by the manufacturer. According to reports, Olympus Corp.'s duodenoscope was especially hard to clean, and the procedure being used by hospitals was largely ineffective for thoroughly sanitizing the device. At least two different types of antibiotic resistant bacteria were identified as living through the sterilization process. Various strains of E. coli were also identified as surviving despite cleaning attempts, most of which were also resistant to drug therapy.

Some have questioned why both Olympus Corp. as well as the FDA took a relatively long time to inform hospitals about the sterilization concerns when they were apparently aware of the issue for 17 months before making an announcement. During that time, Ohio patients were continually exposed to danger in the form of drug-resistant bacteria, a serious concern for patients and experts in the medical community alike. When a manufacturer creates a product that ultimately harms and even kills a number of consumers or patients, they may be brought to civil justice through the process of a product liability suit. Many victims find this process effective for recovering necessary financial damages in order to pay off mountains of medical debt incurred from dangerous medical devices.

Source: CBS News, "'Superbug' infections from dirty hospital scopes climb", Jan. 14, 2016

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