In 2009, many veterans received a letter detailing that they may have been exposed to life-threatening infections due to damaged equipment or unclean colonoscopy equipment. John Renegar Jr., a 66-year-old Vietnam vet, was one of those who tested positive for chronic hepatitis. Due to the lack of care, Renegar is now at risk for life-threatening liver damage for the rest of his life.
Renegar explained that he has lived a clean life and therefore would have not contracted hepatitis any other way than from the colonoscopy. Renegar believes he first contracted hepatitis in 2013 at the Alvin C. York Medical Center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He was one out of 6,387 patients who were considered at risk.
With an investigation underway, it was soon revealed that a one-way valve was not present during the colonoscopy procedure and the water system tubing was not thoroughly cleaned. Investigators also revealed that the original valve had been replaced with a cleaning one, but lacked the one-way valve design. The one-way valve was designed so that bodily fluids could not enter the water in the tube.
What was not determined was when the switch from the one-way valve to the two-way cleaning valve was made. Therefore, Veterans affairs had to inform all 6,387 veterans who had colonoscopies between April 23, 2003, and Dec. 1, 2008.
Malpractice claims were not only limited to Murfreesboro. The medical staff at Bruce W. Carter V.A. Medical Center was also guilty of not properly disinfecting colonoscopy equipment between each procedure. Again the V.A. had to send out letters to 3,260 veterans warning them of possible infections.
Although the agency acknowledged their error of exposing more than 10,000 veterans to viral infections, the V.A. denied most claims.
Attorney Michael G. Sheppard, an advocate for veterans, represented 40 of the veterans whose claims were denied. Sheppard explained how the V.A.’s actions were contradicting. Although they sent out letters admitting to fault, they would deny veterans’ claims of malpractice.
Sheppard filed for a negligence lawsuit on behalf of nine veterans. In the end, the federal court in Tennessee dismissed all of the lawsuits filed. The federal court sided with the V.A. on the notion that there was not enough proof indicating that infections were due to the colonoscopies.
For veterans like Renegar, who were positively tested, will have to live out the rest of their life with an illness that could have been prevented with the proper care and attention.
To watch Michael G. Sheppard’s full interview on the lawsuit please visit MSNBC.com.