US technician gave 45 Hep C
A MEDICAL technician was sentenced on Monday to 39 years in prison for infecting at least 45 hospital patients with hepatitis C by contaminating their syringes.
The technician, David Kwiatkowski, 34, pleaded guilty in August to 16 federal charges, including tampering with a consumer product and obtaining controlled substances through fraud.
Prosecutors said that while he was working as a travelling medical technician in several states, Kwiatkowski injected himself with syringes of fentanyl, a powerful painkiller, then filled them with saline and put them back into circulation for patients.
Last summer, thousands of patients were tested for Kwiatkowski's strain of hepatitis C, an infectious disease that can cause cirrhosis, which can lead to cancer. The 45 patients - one of whom died - who were identified by investigators represent one of the biggest outbreaks of the disease in decades.
Kwiatkowski had moved from job to job despite being fired at least four times over allegations of drug use and theft.
"You handed down to us a potential death sentence," said Ms Linda Ficken, 71, during his sentencing. Kwiatkowski had treated her at Hays Medical Center in Kansas.
After hearing about 20 statements from people he infected and their relatives, Kwiatkowski said: "I don't blame the families for hating me. I hate myself."
He had already agreed to serve a 30-year prison sentence under his plea agreement, but prosecutors asked Judge Joseph LaPlante to give him 40 years, arguing that the scope of damage he had caused, and the degree to which he had endangered public health, merited a higher sentence.
Mr Jonathan Saxe, an assistant federal public defender who represented Kwiatkowski, argued that his actions were motivated by a serious drug addiction, not by an intent to harm others.
"His conduct was surely monstrous, but he's not a monster," Mr Saxe said in an interview after the hearing.
"There's no worse place to be a drug addict than in a hospital, where you can gain access to stuff like that," he said, referring to fentanyl.
Ms Ficken said the sentence had given her some closure, but little comfort. She learnt two weeks ago that her diagnosis ruled out the possibility of her donating bone marrow to her brother, who has leukaemia.
"Now, the next thing is just dealing with the disease itself," she said after the hearing.