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Medical Malpractice Suit Over Contaminated Colonoscopy Equipment Heads to Court

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Robert Metzler, age 69 and a U.S. Air Force veteran, prided himself on his healthy diet, workout regimen, and overall good health. But four years ago, after receiving a colonoscopy at the Miami VA hospital, Metzler’s health was allegedly put into jeapordy. Sadly, Metzler learned in 2009 that he had life-threatening Hepatitis C, which he attributes to the dirty equipment that was used during his colonoscopy. He recently filed a $30 million medical malpractice suit against the Miami Veteran’s Hospital, and his trial is the first scheduled to go to court despite several similar suits that were settled outside of court.

After undergoing colonoscopies between 2004 and 2009, an estimated 11,000 U.S. veterans tested positive for HIV and Hepatitis B and C after hospital staff used uncleaned equipment to conduct the procedures in Tennessee, Florida, and Georgia. In Miami, 11 suits charging emotional distress were settled out of court for undisclosed amounts. These suits were filed after the Miami VA Administrative Investigation Board (AIB) discovered that the colonoscopy equipment was rinsed rather than sterilized by steam and chemicals after each patient. Additionally, investigators discovered discolored liquid and other debris after taking apart the equipment. In fact, the AIB report stated that the colonoscopies were done in an environment of inadequate training, supervision, and communication.

In a separate case that settled out of court in March, U.S. Army veteran Juan Rivera sued for medical malpractice after contracting HIV after receiving a colonoscopy at the Miami VA. Rivera is reportedly doing okay and is on antiretroviral drugs. In the Metzler case, court papers filed on behalf of the VA hospital argue that the chances that Metzler contracted the Hepatitis from the unsterilized equipment is highly unlikely and also downplays the seriousness of his illness.