Ex-Hospital Worker David Kwiatkowski Sentenced to 39 Years
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David Kwiatkowski – an itinerant cardiac technologist who stole IV drugs from operating rooms in 19 hospitals across the country and exposed hundreds of patients to his Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection – was sentenced Monday to 39 years in prison by a New Hampshire federal judge. The New Hampshire suit was brought after Kwiatkowski was found to have infected more than 30 patients with HCV at the Exeter, N.H. hospital where he worked from April 2011 to May 2012. Other suits are pending against facilities in the various states where Kwiatkowski worked, including one against University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), where Kwiatkowski was seen stealing fentanyl syringes from operating-room supply carts: he would inject the fentanyl into his own body, refill the vial with saline, and replace the entire infected rig back on the cart to be used on patients.
Brendan Lupetin, the Pittsburgh attorney who filed the first class-action lawsuit against UPMC and Maxim Solutions, the staffing agency that placed Kwiatkowski at UPMC, said he was torn about the severity of the New Hampshire sentence. “On the one hand I recognize that Kwiatkowski had a terrible addiction that led him to do things he likely would never have done otherwise,” Lupetin said. “I think what he did was reckless but was not done with an intent to specifically hurt patients. So in that regard 39 years seems brutal, as it places him in prison for maybe the rest of his life. On the other hand, he profoundly harmed many peoples’ lives just for his own particular fix.” Lupetin noted that one woman was prevented from donating bone marrow to her brother, who has leukemia, because she had been infected with Hep C by Kwiatkowski. HCV is a life-threatening viral infection that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, kills more Americans each year than HIV. Treatment is difficult and not always effective. Kwiatkowski was reported to have told his attorneys, “I’m going to kill a lot of people out of this.”
Lupetin said the class action suit he filed has been given the go-ahead. The suit represents about 2,200 people who were sent letters from UPMC notifying them they might have been exposed to HCV. “These are people who did not contract HCV but were forced to fear for their well-being and undergo unnecessary medical testing due to the alleged negligence of UPMC and Maxim,” Lupetin said.