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Meningitis outbreak could result in lawsuit outbreak

When a Framingham drug compounding pharmacy released tainted steroids onto the market, it began a cascading effect of lawsuits that has washed over much more than just the company itself. In addition to lawsuits directed at the compounding pharmacy, plaintiffs are also taking aim at health care providers, charging them with medical malpractice for making use of the tainted medications.

Hospital negligence in medical dispensing is typically a difficult claim to prove. With the widespread reach of the tainted medication however, cases are expected to crop up in many of the 16 affected states. This means that the case against the compounding pharmacy and various health care providers will be tried in multiple jurisdictions, each with its own definition of negligence.

The suits that have been filed so far have spanned both state and federal courts. Several of the suits are of class-action status, which may eventually involve thousands of plaintiffs, many of whom were simply injected with the tainted medication without a subsequent diagnosis of meningitis. With so many lawsuits in effect, it's bound to spread over onto the providers, testing existing malpractice laws in the process.

New Mexico patients have a right to expect quality care by competent health care workers. When they receive less than this due to negligence or malpractice, then they also have a right to seek compensation for damages in a court of law. The question of whether a health care agency should be held responsible for the use of tainted medication not made by them is a difficult one that several states are currently facing due to the Framingham incident.

Source: The Boston Globe, "Legal problems could multiply in meningitis outbreak," Jay Fitzgerald, Oct. 21, 2012

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