Take a moment to get all the “that’s what she said” jokes out of your system. Ready? Awesome.
Comes now a whistleblower suit in Florida (of course) accusing a medical testing firm of failing to clean transvaginal probes between each use. The whistleblower, Dennis Vaccato, alleges that his former employer Diagnostic Professionals, Inc., dismissed him in retaliation for complaining about the company’s sanitation procedures.
In a nutshell, the lawsuit argues that you can’t just blow on the end of a probe and call it good before inserting it all up in a woman’s business. Good to know.
More details, after the jump…
Specifically, Vaccato alleges that the company required probes to be wiped down with sanitary wipes after use and then promptly used on the next woman, rather than immersing the probe in disinfectant for upwards of 20 minutes as required by federal law.
So what kind of business does Diagnostic Professionals do in a day that could convince them to cut corners on cleaning lady-part probes? Do they have an assembly line of women in stirrups?
(And, yes, as a man I have no frame of reference for how many transvaginal probes a typical lab conducts in a day, but I’m guessing it’s not so many that taking 20 minutes to sterilize between each examination is unduly burdensome. Back me up here!)
Diagnostic Professionals denies any such procedure and describes Vaccato as a disgruntled former employee terminated for cause. If that’s true, this is one hell of a parting shot to his old bosses. It’s not quite like burning the place to the ground Office Space-style, but telling the world that they don’t clean possibly infectious medical equipment is pretty bad too.
But the complaint, as described by the Sun-Sentinel, includes some very specific references that could cause trouble for Diagnostic Professionals:
It states that, from March 2010 to October 2011, Vaccato made “numerous written and verbal objections” to the use of wipes in disinfecting ultrasound transponders after transvaginal exams but that his concerns were ignored, potentially exposing patients to “serious and life-threatening illnesses.”
If true, “written… objections” sounds like bad news for the company (unless their document retention policy resembles the alleged cleansing policy). If Vaccato can point to a consistent string of complaints, and if Diagnostic Professionals responded with anything other than “What are you talking about, crazy person?”, they should start worrying.
Failing to clean implements that get jammed into certain places has huge legal repercussions, Miami Herald reporter Jose Lambiet points out:
In 2009, the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department faced a scandal in which un-sanitized colonoscopy equipment at VA hospitals possibly infected one patient with the virus that causes AIDS, and 16 others with hepatitis.
In November, one of those patients, an Air Force vet was awarded $1.25 million by a federal judge. He is believed to have caught Hep C at Miami VA Medical Center.
This brought me back to the debate last year over Virginia’s effort to mandate that all patients undergo a transvaginal ultrasound before getting an abortion. At the time, opponents noted that the procedure
technically totally violated the state’s own rape statutes. Couple that outrage with even the suggestion that transvaginal procedures could be compromised by an unscrupulous medical testing firm trying to cut corners on sanitation, and you can understand the concern women (and men capable of empathy) had about the law.
Hopefully there’s nothing to this lawsuit and medical testing firms are diligently following all appropriate procedures. But next time you have an invasive procedure, maybe take a second to see if they at least use some Barbicide.
Joe Patrice is the author of Recess Appointment, a blog about political rhetoric, and he’ll be dropping in occasionally to write about the intersection of law and politics. To answer the question that you’re probably about to ask, he got his J.D. at NYU and spent ten years working at a Biglaw firm and a white-collar defense boutique. His favorite word is sesquipedalian.