Olympus Corporation is a manufacturing company for medical devices, such as ultrasounds, electrocautery equipment, disinfection equipment and gastro-intestinal endoscopes. However, over the course of three years, this company would be responsible for the deaths of 21 patients and the 250 reported other patients who fell ill due to infected scopes.
The worst part is Olympus knew their scopes put patients at risk for infection and remained silent, outright denied it, blamed the hospitals for failing to properly clean the scopes and continued to sell the scopes to other hospitals without disclosing the infection outbreaks.
Olympus Should Have Warned Hospitals of Infected Scopes
Ten years ago, Olympus invented the duodenoscope to perform endoscopic procedures where a doctor will thread the flexible scope down the throat and into the patient’s digestive tract to view ulcers, gallstones, possible cancers and other conditions without doing a full, exploratory surgery. Most recently, Olympus released the TJF-Q180V model, claiming doctors would be able to perform more complex procedures with it and it would be easier to clean.
However, an outbreak was discovered in 2012 when a technician peeled back the tip of the scope and found a grimy, brown film in the part of an Olympus medical scope that supposed to be sealed away from bacteria. An investigator found the scope’s defective design actually trapped blood and tissue, which spread bacteria from patient to patient. Olympus immediately warned European hospitals about the risk of infection, but failed to issue a warning to hospitals in the U.S., which is conveniently the company’s biggest market.
A hospital in Pittsburg was the first to discover a patient infected a superbug called CRE, which is resistant to antibiotics and is known as a “nightmare bacteria.” After testing all of the Olympus scopes, the hospital found five of the 31 scopes were infected, despite the hospital’s thorough disinfecting procedures. When an Olympus representative was contacted about the problem, they insisted that the infection was caused by the hospital’s cleaning machine, which was not an Olympus brand machine. So, the hospital bought another machine from Olympus only to find the scopes were still infected.
Over the next year, more infection cases sprung up across the U.S. connected to Olympus scopes, but Olympus continued in a similar fashion of selling more cleaning equipment or outright blaming the hospital for not following the instructions for cleaning the scopes. It did not file a detailed report on the possibility of infection until 2015. The TJF-Q180V scopes were not recalled until January of 2016.
Should Olympus be Held Accountable for Not Disclosing Information on the High Risk of Infections?
Olympus knew about the defective scope design and sold it across the U.S. anyway without warning either doctors or the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). There were at least 25 outbreaks of infections, many of which were antibiotic resistant superbug outbreaks. After making design changes that allegedly will reduce the risk of infection, the FDA approved the scopes. However, if you acquire an infection after an endoscopic procedure, it may be in your best interest to consult with an attorney to help investigate if an infected scope was the cause.
“He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction.” Psalms 107:20