Doctor Negligence May Have Exposed Thousands to HIV

Jacky Gale | June 11th, 2013

Doctor Negligence

A dentist who formerly practiced in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is under investigation for potentially exposing thousands of his patients to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Dr. W. Scott Harrington is accused of perpetuating an extreme case of doctor negligence by allegedly using contaminated, sometimes rusty dental equipment on as many as 7,000 patients.

State and local health officials have urged all patients who have sought care at Dr. Harrington’s practice to undergo testing for HIV. Additionally, health officials have warned that patients may have been exposed to hepatitis B and hepatitis C. The cross-contamination is alleged to have occurred when the dental instruments were used on patients with infectious diseases, and then not sanitized properly. According to the Oklahoma Dentistry Board, Harrington is considered to be a “menace to public health.”

The potential exposure to thousands of patients was uncovered after one patient tested positive for HIV and hepatitis C, despite not having risk factors for either illness. Health officials determined that the unnamed patient had undergone a dental procedure at Harrington’s clinic. Harrington’s two clinics are now closed and he is said to be cooperating with investigators.

Latest updates from health officials

Harrington had been expecting an April 19, 2013 hearing, at which time Dentistry Board officials would have decided whether to suspend his license. However, Harrington decided to voluntarily waive his right to the hearing and surrender his license. He still faces a hearing on August 16, 2013. The purpose of that hearing will be to decide whether Harrington’s license will be revoked.

Officials will consider the sterilization methods that Harrington’s office used – or failed to use. According to the Dentistry Board, the dentist left matters of sterilization to his employees. Protocol dictates that sterilization equipment should be tested monthly; Harrington’s equipment allegedly hadn’t been tested for six years.

Officials are also considering whether Harrington’s patients were placed in harm’s way via other safety violations. They cited a drug log which showed that morphine had been administered in 2012, despite its expiration date of 1993. Hundreds of Harrington’s former patients have been lining up to get tested for the illnesses. As of April 18, 2013, 57 people were diagnosed with hepatitis C, three people were diagnosed with hepatitis B, and an undisclosed number of people, numbering less than three, tested positive for HIV.

At least one patient will file a lawsuit

One of Harrington’s former patients who tested positive for HIV plans to sue for doctor negligence. T.J. Harring, who lives in Tulsa, sought a tooth extraction at Harrington’s practice in September 2010. Harring noted that he was given prescription painkillers with two refills, and that he considered the large amount of prescribed drugs unusual. He was diagnosed with AIDS in February 2012. Harring has consulted a lawyer and plans a lawsuit against the dentist.

Consulting New York medical malpractice lawyers

Healthcare professionals are expected to adhere to strict guidelines to ensure patient safety and when they fail to do so, the consequences can have life-threatening consequences. If you or a loved has suffered an injury as a result of unsanitary medical procedures or any other form of doctor negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses, and other losses. Contact The Sanders Firm right away to discuss your situation. Our experienced New York medical malpractice lawyers will review your case for free and file a lawsuit on your behalf if you’re eligible. Call today at 1-800-FAIR-PLAY.