- Associated Press - Thursday, March 5, 2015

SEATTLE (AP) - A widow is suing a Seattle hospital and a medical device manufacturer over the death of her husband following a drug-resistant “superbug” infection.

In the lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court, Theresa Bigler, 59, of Woodway, seeks damages for what she says is the wrongful death of her husband, Richard Bigler, 57.

He was one of 11 patients who died after being infected by a contaminated medical scope made by Olympus America and used during diagnostic and treatment procedures at Virginia Mason.

“This is just about how and why did this happen,” Bigler said. “I just want to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

The complaint also notes that Virginia Mason Medical Center didn’t originally inform the Biglers and 31 other patients that they were involved in the outbreak.

“VMMC, contrary to its well-publicized policy of ‘transparency,’ chose not to tell the family that Mr. Bigler died due to an infection caused by a contaminated Olympus duodenoscope,” states the complaint, filed by the Luvera Law Firm of Seattle.

Virginia Mason has since reversed an earlier decision and is notifying patients and family members who were part of the outbreak between 2012 and 2014, The Seattle Times reported in Thursday’s newspaper (https://is.gd/fdPg4U).

“In retrospect, we should have circled back to these patients about the likely source of the infection,” Dr. Gary Kaplan, the hospital’s chairman and chief executive, said Wednesday in a meeting with The Seattle Times editorial board.

Health officials have said it’s not clear what role, if any, the infections played in the patients’ deaths.

Virginia Mason and Olympus officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit is the latest development in a growing national problem of hard-to-clean medical scopes spreading dangerous bacteria among patients at hospitals. At least 135 patients who underwent so-called ERCP procedures, or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, between 2013 and 2014 developed multidrug-resistant infections, according to the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The Seattle outbreak, one of the nation’s largest, involved strains of multidrug-resistant E. coli bacteria.

It was followed by reports of seven infections, two deaths and scores of patients being notified that they’d been potentially exposed to dangerous carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriacea, or CRE, at a Los Angeles hospital between October and January.

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Information from: The Seattle Times, https://www.seattletimes.com

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