New legal woes in U.S., Europe, for Olympus duodenoscope device

The Olympus problem with one of its duodenoscopes has cropped up again with another major suit in the United States and new assertions the device also was linked to hospital superbugs in Europe.

In the United States, the case began in the Los Angeles area last year when superbug outbreaks in several hospitals were traced to allegedly insufficient sterilization of Olympus TJF-Q180V, a popular duodenoscope among surgeons. It has been cited as the cause of several hospital deaths, although in most cases the association was not clear because of the patient's state of health.

A year before the U.S. discovery, the scopes were linked to the superbug in at least the Netherlands, where a large study was conducted, and in Germany, the Los Angeles Times reported. Olympus took steps to resolve the problem, but apparently never revealed it in the United States--not even to the U.S. FDA, the agency has said.

Whatever its response in Europe, people and companies there are not as litigious as those in the United States where a new suit was filed in Seattle the same day as the report on the Europe findings.

The wife of a patient who lost his life in a Seattle hospital sued Olympus after her husband died of an infection allegedly transported by the Olympus scope. Since then, the Seattle hospital conducted a confidential investigation, discovered 38 other patients were similarly infected and joined the original suit.

Both plaintiffs accused Olympus of failing to provide proper cleaning instructions for the endoscopes and for not disclosing its design defects.

Ironically, the hospital remains a co-defendant with Olympus in the original patient's case for having performed the procedure with an unsafe instrument.

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