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Dix Hills Doctor Settles First Hepatitis C Medical Malpractice Case

May 12, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP Dr. Harvey Finkelstein, the Dix Hills doctor who the state Department of Health says exposed thousands of patients to  blood-borne pathogen infections such as hepatitis B and C and HIV/AIDS by reusing syringes, has settled a medical malpractice lawsuit with a Syosset man who claimed he contracted hepatitis C in Finkelstein’s office.
  Finkelstein continues to practice and has now settled an unprecedented 11 malpractice lawsuits in eight years.  Less than 200 of the state's 80,000 doctors have settled that many cases, according to Washington-based consumer group Public Citizen.

The financial settlement marks the first resolution of several lawsuits filed after the Department of Health investigation found that Peter Mattmuller, 66, was infected in Finkelstein's office.  According to the lawsuit, infection occurred because Finkelstein used a syringe multiple times on the patient seen before Mattmuller—Steve Corrado, 53—contaminating multidose vials that were then the source of Mattmuller’s injections.  Corrado, now on disability, said he began receiving injections from Finkelstein in the mid-1990s after a work injury left him with debilitating back pain.  In 1999, Corrado said he became ill, was diagnosed with hepatitis C—a blood-borne disease that can cause severe liver damage—and immediately called Finkelstein, with whom he had become close. In a July 20, 1999, medical document, Finkelstein notes Corrado's diagnosis:  "Hep C x 20 years.”  Raymond Bookstaver, 49, of Hicksville was being treated by Finkelstein for a degenerative disc disease in his back when he was diagnosed in Decemb
er 2004 with hepatitis.  Bookstaver received injections of the same medications during the appointment immediately preceding Mattmuller's, according to Health Department and medical records.

On July 15, 2004, in a procedure that ended at noon, Finkelstein injected Corrado with medications and dyes.  About 35 minutes later, Bookstaver was injected with the same four medications:  Triamcinolone, a steroid; lidocaine and bupivacaine, both local anesthetics; and ketorolac, an anti-inflammatory drug.  Mattmuller was injected with the same combination at 1 p.m.  All three men's disease strains are linked and share the same genotype of 1B.

Susan Lewis, of North Massapequa, is suing Finkelstein, claiming he gave her hepatitis C and is also suing the state and county health departments for taking nearly three years to notify her of the doctor's reuse of syringes.

County and state investigators observed Finkelstein in his office in January 2005 and reported that while drawing medicine from multidose vials he reused syringes on three patients.  Finkelstein's flawed infection-control techniques prompted authorities to notify over 10,000 patients of their risk for disease last November.  In March the Nassau County district attorney's office raided Finkelstein's office and seized medical records and a computer hard drive and are considering whether they can bring felony charges against Finkelstein which could include second-degree assault for causing the infections, falsifying business records, offering a false instrument, and changing or withholding records from the state Department of Health.  

Health authorities said they were frustrated by what they believed was Finkelstein's reluctance to turn over records and expanded the investigation to include over 10,000 patients.

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