January 20, 2005

22 Patients Blinded in One Day at Russian Clinic

Ophthalmologists Accused Straight in their Eyes
by Yulia Osipova

Kommersant - New Russia's First Independent Newspaper

Yesterday the Central District of Moscow Prosecutor’s Office began the examination of the medical staff of one of EXIMER, one of Russia’s largest ophthalmologist clinics systems, where in one day 22 people, lost their sight all in one day after the surgery.

Nikolay Pavlenko, an EXIMER patient, who was blinded as result of surgery, filed a lawsuit at the Prosecutor’s Office pressing criminal charges against the doctors with a demand for health damage compensation. He also intends to ask that all EXIMER clinics should be checked throughout Russia.
In the middle of November 2004, Ukraine citizen Nikolay Pavlenko went to a regional representation of EXIMER clinic in Kharkov (opened there in 2000) for a cataract surgery. This eye condition is very popular and is caused by the opacity of lens. The doctors suggested implanting an artificial lens by an ultrasound. This standard surgery cost $1.1 thousand for one eye. Pavlenko was one of 21 patients, who underwent surgery on November 20, performed by the head doctor of the EXIMER system of clinics Kirill Pershin. A few hours after the surgery all patients had sharp pain in their eyes, nausea, and drastic impairment of sight. The next day examination revealed that during the surgery the patients were infected with blue pus bacillus (Bacillus Aeruginosa), which causes endophthalmitis – deterioration of eye tissue resulting in blindness. The mass infection caused 21 people to lose sight in one eye, while Pavlenko lost sight in both. The majority of patients are still undergoing treatment in Moscow, Kiev, and Kharkov.

Pavlenko filed a lawsuit at the Prosecutor’s Office of the Central District of Moscow, where the head office of the clinic is located, pressing criminal charges against the doctors, and compensation of damage they had caused. Prior to that Kharkov Prosecutor’s Office had begun examining the Kharkov clinic by demands of the investigation. Kommersant learned that Kharkov sanitary epidemic station had taken samples of all medication used during surgery. The test results proved that “the blue pus bacillus was found in two out of the five bottles of salt solutions, produced by a large U.S. pharmaceutical company,” its name not being published in the interests of the investigation. The Russian companies importing the solutions are also not being made public.

“We are not hiding the fact that all 22 patients had severe complications after the surgery,” Pershin commented on the situation. “Currently, the clinic has taken the responsibility for the patients who suffered, providing them with the needed ophthalmologic assistance.” At the same time Pershin denies his responsibility in the accident. “Imagine that the doctor prescribed Tylenol, but instead there was poison in the package. The doctor is responsible for the patient, but cannot be blamed for his having gotten poisoned,” he said. “The U.S. producer of the salt solution produces it by thousands of liters a day, exporting it to the whole world. No infection episodes of endophthalmitis were fixed anywhere else but Ukraine, and what is worthy of noticing, a day before the elections.”

However, Pavlenko’s lawyers Kirill Yashenkov and Vitaly Chaban told Kommersant that even if the Prosecutor’s office establishes the fact of the salt solution contamination, their client would insist on proving both the solution producers and the doctors guilty. “It was learned that after the surgery, when patients began losing sight, there was panic in the clinic,” the lawyers said, “There were not enough beds, nor staff, nor medication to treat them. The doctors lost the time, which could have saved the patients’ sight.” Pavlenko’s lawyers also intend to file a demand to the Health Ministry to check all EXIMER clinics in Russia.

Posted by Admin at January 20, 2005 05:26 PM