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First Lawsuit Filed in Mayo Clinic Florida Hepatitis Case

5:23 PM, Nov 9, 2010   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The first litigation related to a fatality in the Mayo Clinic hepatitis case has been filed.

The widow of Dennis Wolford, a 62-year-old Stuart resident, is filing a medical malpractice suit against the hospital. The hospital was sent the intent sue letter on Tuesday. 

Wolford died in September 2008, after two liver transplants at the Mayo Clinic, in 2006 and February 2008.

According to a release from the law firm representing Wolford tested negative for hepatitis C prior to the transplants.

The release also states that Wolford was supposed to receive Fentanyl to help him with the pain associated with his surgeries.

"We know he got it from  the Mayo Clinic, we just did not know how.  They (the hospital) could not figure out how," said Peggy Wolford during an interview in Jacksonville Beach with her attorney at her side.

In August, the Mayo Clinic Florida released a statement saying an ex-employee was fired for his role in diverting Fentanyl, described as taking a narcotic drug in a syringe and injecting himself, then replacing the needle and filling the syringe with saline for patients' IV lines.

The employee, later identified by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office as Steven Beumel, 47, was arrested for stealing drugs. He was fired from Mayo.

The law firm said in its statement that using the same syringe exposed patients to Beumel's blood, which was infected with the virus.

"If this becomes a lawsuit then what we will seek is information on how this radiology technologist actually was able to inject multiple patients with a narcotic medication he was not supposed to have access to," said Frank Ashton, who is representing the Wilson family. 

Mayo subsequently alerted thousands of patients of the possibility of hepatitis C infection, but today's action is the first lawsuit related to the incident.

"It seems clear that the most likely source of Mr. Wolford's hepatitis C infection was the Mayo radiology technologist," said  Ashton.

"We cannot understand how a radiology technologist could have been allowed access to such powerful narcotic pain medications or how he could have been permitted to directly inject patients with these medications.  It is difficult to believe that this process could go on for many years without detection."

Ashton added that Mayo has not been cooperating or forthcoming with information in the investigation.

Mayo offered this statement today:

"We extend our deepest sympathy to the family for the difficulties following the loss of their loved one. Mayo Clinic does not comment on pending litigation."

Wolford was a carpenter, and his wife said they chose Mayo for the transplants because of the clinic's reputation.

Peggy Wolford said she has since been forced to declare bankruptcy and lose her home because of the medical expenses.

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