Olympus Corporation of Japan (Olympus) is at the center of an ongoing investigation and will likely be targeted by a series of lawsuits due to tainted or infected duodenoscopes it manufactured. The infected duodenoscopes are thought to be the cause of at least 35 patient deaths in 2013.
A duodenoscope is a tube-like medical device that is inserted into a patient’s mouth and snaked down to the small intestine, where it can take pictures and remove blockages, cysts, and other abnormalities. Despite doctors’ best efforts to thoroughly clean and sterilize Olympus brand duodenoscopes – which are used in about 85% of the United States medical market – bacteria, grime, and other unclean substances could get stuck in the device. When the scope was used subsequent times, it had a high chance of spreading infections or diseases, ultimately causing serious illness or death.
Inaction is the Real Issue
Defective medical devices seem to permeate the market, putting patients at undue risk every day. The Olympus duodenoscope case is unique because the corporation had plenty of information regarding the device’s dangerous design but willingly chose not to share it with U.S. company executives. More than 20 “superbug” infections in France and the Netherlands were linked to the duodenoscopes and reported back to Olympus.
When a high-ranking Olympus executive asked the Tokyo headquarters in early 2013 if there was reason for concern in the States, they were explicitly told no. It was told through email communications that telling clients and users in the U.S. was not necessary because the risk of infection from duodenoscope usage was acceptably low. On the contrary, warnings were released to European markets. This raises the question, “Why would European users need to be warned but not American users?” There is no clear answer and Olympus has insisted consistently in statements that the dangers come from user errors and unclean practices.
Mass Torts & Lawsuits for Company Negligence
Although full investigations need to be completed, it would appear that people who suffered illness and infection after routine gastrointestinal duodenoscopic procedures may have grounds for a lawsuit. Olympus’s refusal to notify American clients readily may be seen by courts and juries as gross negligence that led to many injuries and numerous patient deaths.
If you or someone you love has been hurt by an Olympus duodenoscope, contact Kaiser Gornick, LLP. Our defective medical product attorneys in San Francisco have 60+ years of combined experience, have helped hundreds of clients, and have collected millions of dollars of recoveries. Learn what we can do for you by scheduling a free consultation.