News from Hepatitis Week of Feb. 9, 2003 / Vol. 3 No. 06

Surgeons Probed in Hepatitis C Case Refuse Testing

Two top surgeons at a Long Island hospital are still refusing to be tested for hepatitis C some 20 months after one of their patients contracted the disease, according to a Jan. 22 draft state health department report obtained by the newspaper Newsday.

The director of cardiothoracic/vascular surgery, Dr. Paul S. Damus, and his assistant surgeon at St. Francis Hospital as well as two operating room nurses said they would only undergo testing if another related case were identified. Seven other members of the team surgery already have agreed to be tested.

New York state epidemiologists have been trying to trace the source of the infection in the patient since last spring. The hospital has re-approached the four in the past few weeks about being tested, but it cannot require medical professionals to undergo testing.

The report noted that two other surgeons at St. Francis who did not participate in the surgery on the hepatitis C-infected patient have had the disease dating back to 1994 and 1995. The hospital is not required to disclose their status to patients prior to procedures.

The investigaton centers on a 42-year-old patient who developed acute hepatitis C within weeks of his June 22, 2001, coronary artery bypass surgery. He expressed disappointment that his surgeon Damus had refused to be tested.

"He is in a position of leadership and authority at the hospital," the patient, who asked not to be identified, told Newsday. "I would think he would want to know."

Other sources: Newsday