Medical Technician with a drug problem infects other with Hep. C

Yes, you read that correctly. 

David Kwiatkowski was a medical technician, traveling to different states throughout the US. He pleaded guilty in August to charges that he injected himself with syringes of fentanyl, a powerful painkiller, then filled the syringes back up with saline that was tainted with his blood. He has hepatitis C, which spread to 45 patients that were under his care. One of those patients has died. 

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal are reporting on this story because Kwiatkowski apologized today to those patients, “saying he was very sorry,” as reported in the WSJ. 

The Times article had less information than the WSJ’s version, however the Times gave credit to one reporter, while the WSJ used an Associated Press story. The WSJ (AP) story did have the most complete information, painting a more complete picture of this sad story. 

According to the WSJ article, Kwiatkowski “was a cardiac technologist in 18 hospitals in seven states…he had moved from job to job despite being fired at least four times over allegations of drug use and theft. In all, 32 patients were infected in New Hampshire, seven in Maryland, six in Kansas and one in Pennsylvania. Mr. Kwiatkowski also worked in Michigan, New York, Arizona and Georgia.”

Both articles included quotes from one of those patients, Linda Ficken of Andover, Kansas. An anecdote is included in the WSJ story detailing that “she is haunted by the memory of Mr. Kwiatkowski standing at her bedside for more than an hour, applying pressure to the catheter’s entry site in her leg to control a bleeding problem.” Both stories detail how since her brother’s diagnosis of leukimia, she is unable to donate because of her new-found disease. 

While the WSJ article includes the above information and the Times article does not, there is another interesting piece of legal news not included in the WSJ story. 

“John P. Kacavas, the United States attorney for New Hampshire, called for more oversight and regulation of medical employees like Mr. Kwiatkowski. While the conclusion of this prosecution closes the criminal aspect of this case, it has cast a harsh light on the dirty little secret of drug diversion in the medical setting,” Mr. Kacavas said at a news conference after the sentencing.”

This level of corruption in the medical field could, and should, change hiring processes for like positions, the same kind that Mr. Kwiatkowski held. The actions taken by this man were even deemed a danger to public health. 

“Mr. Kwiatkowski had already agreed to serve a 30-year prison sentence under his plea agreement, but prosecutors asked Judge Joseph N. LaPlante to give him 40 years, arguing that the scope of damage he had caused, and the degree to which he had endangered public health, merited a higher sentence,” reported in the Times. 

The impact of this story for citizens is monumental, for those in the medical field. While hundreds of thousand of Americans visit a health care facility every day, the chances of somebody coming into contact with such contaminated supplies like the kind mentioned above is very, very small. However, this case could and should lay the groundwork for stricter hiring policies in the medical field. 

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