Vegas doctor blamed for virus outbreak affecting Pinoys sentenced

By Bev Llorente, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Nov. 1, 2013

LAS VEGAS – Some Filipino patients affected by the virus outbreak in Las Vegas six years ago can breathe a huge sigh of relief.

The man blamed for it — Dr. Dipak Desai — was finally sentenced last week to a life in prison with the possibility of parole after 18 years.

His co-defendant, nurse anesthetist Ronald Lakeman, was sentenced to eight to 21 years in jail.

Desai, the former Las Vegas Endoscopy Center owner, and then gastroenterologist, is a 63-year old of Indian descent…whose medical empire turned in to a tragic nightmare.

Desai was found guilty of 27 criminal counts, including second-degree murder, for infecting nine patients with hepatitis C.

Desai and Lakeman reportedly re-used syringes and practiced unsafe injections in their clinic. Officials traced the hepatitis C source to two patients sometime in 2007 and vials, which were contaminated, were injected into other patients…potentially placing hundreds in harm’s way.

“The practice of Dr. Dipak Desai was the biggest practice in Las Vegas back then. And a lot of the Filipinos were sent there,” Noel Fajardo, a Filipino gastroenterologist practicing in Southern Nevada, said.

Nine were infected from the clinic. Among them, is a Filipina, who spoke to Balitang America but asked not to be identified.

“My children know that I have hepatitis C. They feel so bad for me. I have to face it. I can’t do anything about it. My husband can’t sleep because he’s so worried for me. I don’t know when my time is up,” she said.

Two patients ended up dying after the outbreak. One of them is 77-year old retired Philippine Army Colonel Rodolfo Maena, who passed away on April 2012. Authorities said Maena was the second person infected.

Marjorie Meana-Strong told the Las Vegas Review Journal that her father was never bitter about his infection from the contaminated clinic. He just regarded it as “something he had to deal with.”

Meantime, Dr. Fajardo argued that although Desai made an extremely negative impact to the medical community because of his actions, he assured patients that getting a colonoscopy is relatively safe and will be beneficial for early detection of colon cancer.

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