- SAN FRANCISCO - Lawyers have filed a class action lawsuit against a California
laboratory after some 3,600 patients were warned to take AIDS and hepatitis
tests because a technician admitted she sometimes reused disposable hypodermic
needles to draw blood.
- Attorney Stephen Blick said in the Tuesday
edition of the San Jose Mercury News that he had filed the suit on behalf
of all patients at the clinic operated by Anglo-U.S. drug maker SmithKline
Beecham Co. in Palo Alto, Calif.
- SmithKline fired the unidentified technician,
or phlebotomist, after a colleague saw her reuse a needle on March 22.
During an investigation, the phlebotomist acknowledged reusing certain
needles to draw blood from patients with veins that were difficult to access.
- The phlebotomist, who worked at the lab
since June 1, 1997, said she would wash some used needles with water and
hydrogen peroxide " a mixture that health officials said could kill
some, but not all, blood-borne pathogens.
- State health authorities said Friday
they were mailing warnings to at least 3,600 patients in San Mateo and
Santa Clara counties who had blood work performed at the lab.
- Blick said he decided to file the suit
after learning that a colleague's wife had visited the facility at least
ten times over the past two years and specifically remembered at least
two instances in which she had blood drawn by the now-fired lab employee.
- "Somebody who really had any true
training would never engage in such reckless and outrageous conduct,''
Blick told the Mercury News. He did not return phone calls from Reuters
- The suit, which does not specify damages,
names both SmithKline Beecham and the former employee. It alleges negligence,
battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
- SmithKline Beecham spokesman Jeremy Heymsfeld
said it was company policy not to discuss pending litigation.
- State health authorities have sought
to calm fears sparked by the clinic's revelation, noting that the neighborhoods
served by the facility were generally low risk for blood-borne diseases
and that the risk of infection from blood drawing was less than that from
an actual injection.
- Still, a toll-free help line set up by
SmithKline Beecham was so swamped with calls over the weekend that some
callers were forced to wait up to 90 minutes to have their questions answered,
the San Jose Mercury News said.