German doctor gets suspended two years' jail for infecting 50 patients with hepatitis C

30 Jun 2023 05:48pm
For illustration purposes only - Photo: 123RF
For illustration purposes only - Photo: 123RF

AUGSBURG - A German anaesthetist has been handed a suspended sentence for causing grievous bodily harm after passing on hepatitis C to more than 50 surgery patients, reported German news agency (dpa).

The Augsburg Regional Court in southern Germany sentenced the 61-year-old to two years' imprisonment on 51 counts on Friday, but he does not have to serve time.

The doctor had made a comprehensive confession.

Due to a painful chronic intestinal disease, which later turned out to have been caused by the hepatitis C virus, the anaesthetist had stolen opiates from his workplace at the Donau-Ries Hospital in the Bavarian town of Donauwörth to treat himself with injections.

Presiding Judge Christoph Kern spoke of "blatant violations of hygiene rules".

In the end, blood was transferred and more than 50 patients became infected. The court assumed that the doctor had first contracted hepatitis C from a patient. In the months that followed, the man unknowingly transmitted the liver infection to dozens of patients in 2017 and 2018.

After the "medical scandal of nationwide proportions" became known, as the judge put it, 1,700 people, who had all been treated by the doctor in the hospital during the period under investigation, were asked to be tested for hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by a virus that often goes undetected that can cause serious long-term consequences. According to a German liver foundation, in 20 to 50 per cent of cases, the infection heals on its own within six months.

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In other cases, the liver inflammation becomes chronic. After 20 to 30 years, cirrhosis and liver cancer can develop in some of those infected. "Thanks to new medicines, hepatitis C can almost always be cured today," says the foundation. - BERNAMA