© 2008 The Medical-Legal News
In 2004, 3,600 patients at two Duke University hospitals were exposed to surgical instruments that had been mistakenly cleaned with hydraulic fluid, according to the Raleigh News and Observer (June 19).
The two hospitals, Duke Raleigh and Durham Regional, part of the Duke University Health System, settled confidentially with patients who suffered from health problems. Plaintiffs claimed infections, immune-system problems, inflammatory response problems and loss of consortium.
The law firm of HensonFuerst represented the plaintiffs.
According to raleigh.injuryboard.com, the patients had to try to tie the incident to their mostly autoimmune illnesses, despite a Duke-commissioned study that suggested no connection existed.
Duke notified patients of their exposure in January 2005.
About 70 patients have filed suits against Steris Corp., of Mentor, Ohio, and Cardinal Health of Dublin, Ohio, for their roles in the hydraulic fluid mix-up. Steris is a maker of sterilization washers and Cardinal is a distributor of medical and surgical supplies.
According to a 2005 News and Observer story, the fluid was drained from an elevator at a Duke hospital and put into old barrels marked Mon-Klenz, the name of the detergent. Amazingly, both products have a maple syrup color. The barrels were not discarded promptly and were eventually and mistakenly put back into commerce. Though the barrels were not sealed, staff accepted the barrels without question back at the hospital. Staff later noted trouble with the tool washing machines and complained that the tools were so slick they had to be wiped and rewashed.