May 28, 2015 — Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle has joined a lawsuit filed by the widow of a man who died from a “superbug” infection transmitted on a contaminated medical scope made by Olympus Corp, according to the Seattle Times.

The man, 57 year-old Richard Bigler, went to Virginia Mason for what he thought was a routine, low-risk procedure. He was battling pancreatic cancer and doctors used an Olympus duodenoscope to open up a blocked duct.

Eight days later, Bigler died from an antibiotic-resistant E. coli infection. He was among nearly 40 patients in the Seattle area who were exposed to the “superbug,” and one of 18 patients who died after being infected on contaminated scopes at Virginia Mason between 2012 and 2014.

His wife, Theresa Bigler, filed a lawsuit in March against Virginia Mason and Olympus. Last week, she went from blaming doctors at Virginia Mason to hoping they can help — she agreed to team up with the hospital to seek damages from Olympus.

Virginia Mason says hospital workers followed manufacturer guidelines for cleaning the scope. The hospital claims Olympus knew that the scope was extremely difficult to sterilize, but never informed the hospital. Attorneys for the family say “Virginia Mason was misled and misinformed by Olympus as to the safety of its devices.”

Virginia Mason has not had any new infection outbreaks since voluntarily implementing a more rigorous cleaning procedure. The hospital bought 20 new scopes and cleans, cultures, and quarantines them for at least 48 hours between uses. Only when tests come back negative for bacteria are the scopes used on patients.


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