Hepatitis C victim described organ failure in deposition before his death

Prosecutors on Wednesday played for a jury the videotaped deposition of hepatitis C outbreak victim Rodolfo Meana that was taken several weeks before his 2012 death.

Meana, 77, flew to the Philippines a week after the March 20, 2012, deposition to spend his remaining days in his native country. He died April 27, 2012.

Earlier Wednesday, one of Meana’s daughters, Marjorie Meana-Strong, described on the witness stand how her father’s health deteriorated rapidly after he was infected with the deadly hepatitis C virus following a routine colonoscopy at Dr. Dipak Desai’s main clinic.

Meana’s hepatitis infection was among seven the Southern Nevada Health District genetically linked to the now-closed Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada on Shadow Lane.

Officials concluded Meana and five other patients contracted hepatitis C through unsafe injection practices on Sept. 21, 2007. Another patient was infected on July 25, 2007.

The playing of Meana’s deposition, which was cut short after about 90 minutes because of his failing health, comes as prosecutors are winding down their criminal case against Desai and nurse anesthetist Ronald Lakeman.

The two defendants are standing trial in the courtroom of District Judge Valerie Adair on more than two dozen charges stemming from the 2007 hepatitis outbreak, including second-degree murder, criminal neglect of patients, theft and insurance fraud.

Desai, who performed Meana’s colonoscopy, surrendered his medical license after health officials disclosed the hepatitis outbreak in early 2008.

Meana, a Philippines military veteran who came to the United States in 1997, gave the 2012 deposition from his home through a video hookup in Adair’s courtroom with prosecutors and defense lawyers.

Jurors watched the videotape intently Wednesday as Meana answered questions with an interpreter at his side.

Dressed in slacks and a rolled-up, long-sleeved shirt, Meana explained mostly in English his experience with the colonoscopy and how he started feeling sick “after a month’s time.”

He said his skin turned yellow and he suffered from flu-like symptoms with “some sort of slight depression.”

After being informed that he tested positive for hepatitis C, he only did treatment for the virus for a week because it made him feel worse, Meana testified.

“Sir, what’s your health right now?” Chief Deputy District Attorney Pam Weckerly asked Meana.

“It’s very bad,” he responded. “My liver is no longer functioning, and I have kidney failure.”

After Meana’s death, a county medical examiner flew to the Philippines to observe the autopsy and bring back blood and tissue samples for prosecutors. The autopsy concluded he died of complications of hepatitis C.

In her testimony, Meana-Strong said her father was “alert” and led an “active” life until he was infected with the virus.

Eventually, he had trouble walking and had to give up driving, and toward the end he required 24-hour care, she said.

Prosecutors expect to rest their case on Friday, giving the defense a chance to start presenting witnesses on Monday.

Among the final prosecution witnesses scheduled this week is Las Vegas police detective Robert Whiteley, the lead investigator. This will be his first public testimony in the case.

Adair estimated from the bench that the case could go to the jury by June 28, the end of the high-profile trial’s tenth week.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135. Follow @JGermanRJ on Twitter.