Doctor Charged in Las Vegas Hepatitis C Outbreak Sent to Mental Hospital

The doctor whose clinics were at the center of a 2007 hepatitis C outbreak in Las Vegas was taken into custody Thursday and sent to a state mental hospital for evaluation, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Dipak Desai was ordered to surrender after two court-appointed medical experts determined that a pair of strokes have left him incompetent to stand trial. He will undergo several more medical assessments to determine whether there is any possibility he will regain his mental faculties. If Desai is ultimately deemed incompetent with no possibility of recovery, the charges against him will have to be dropped.

Desai, a gastroenterologist who ran the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, faces racketeering, insurance fraud and neglect charges related to the hepatitis outbreak that authorities believe infected at least seven, and as many as 114, patients. Two former employees have also been charged.

Several other cases related to the outbreak are making their way through the Nevada courts. Both Baxter Healthcare and Teva Parenteral Medicines have been sued in civil court, accused of playing a role because they distributed the anesthetic propofol in vials that were larger than necessary, inviting multiple uses.

Nevada health officials blamed reuse of vials of the anesthetic propofol for infecting patients with the incurable liver disease. The drug makers have countered that the vials were marked with instructions and warnings.

In one decision, now under appeal, a headmaster of a private school who contracted hepatitis C won a $500 million judgment for punitive damages from a Las Vegas jury.

Click here to read more from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.