New York Personal Injury Law Blog » Medical Malpractice


November 29th, 2007

New York Doctor Caught Reusing Syringes in Multi-Dose Vials

Out on Long Island, the name Harvey Finkelstein is now widely known. The anesthesiologist has been the subject of several articles this past week concerning a three-year investigation that revealed he had potentially exposed hundreds of patients to blood-borne diseases by routinely reusing syringes in multi-dose vials. This exposed patients to Hepatitis and HIV/AIDS.

While Finkelstein used only one syringe per person, he would stick the syringe into a multi-dose vial that would also be used by others, thereby contaminating the remainder of the vial.

Aside from the conduct of the doctor, this story has a kicker: The state’s investigators waited three years to let patients know, sending out 628 letter just this past week. Why is that significant? Two reasons, one medical and one legal.

First, and clearly of paramount importance, if someone was infected they didn’t get prompt treatment. Second, because the statute of limitations in medical malpractice in New York is 2 1/2 years, those that may have been infected not only didn’t learn about it in a timely manner, but may not be able to institute legal action to redress their grievances. In New York, the statute of limitations is not governed by when the negligence was discovered, but by when it happened or by end of the continuing treatment by that physician.

In today’s news, Newsday writes of the secret procedures in New York that keep disciplinary issues as far from the public eye as possible. New York, it seems is one of only five states out of 42 that were surveyd last year in which no parts of the proceedings were public. From the article:

It is among a handful of states that conducts the entire probe in private and withholds a doctor’s name unless the complaint is upheld. And even after an investigation is concluded, doctors are not required to notify patients if they are practicing under sanction. What information is available is found on a state Web site that critics argue few people know about.

The entry on the Office of Professional Medical Conduct Web site about Finkelstein is this: “Nondisciplinary order of conditions issued pursuant to New York State Public Health Law Section 230. for three years including conditions relating to infection control.”

Well, that description tells you a lot, doesn’t it?

Finkelstein, by the way, has had 10 malpractice settlements. That makes him one of 127 of New York’s 70,000 physicians with a similar history.

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(Eric Turkewitz is a personal injury attorney in New York)

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