About five years ago Karen Morrow underwent what she said was supposed to be a routine colonoscopy and endoscopy from Dr. Dipak Desai, the kind of checkup that doctors suggest be taken simply as a preventive measure.
Now she is one of the more than 100 people thought to have been infected with hepatitis C at the physician's clinics.
"I'm a mess right now," she whispered Tuesday as she sat in the courtroom of District Judge Jackie Glass, who was conducting a hearing involving Desai. "I hardly slept last night."
After the Review-Journal broke the news that Tuesday's hearing would reveal that two court-appointed medical experts found a stroke had made Desai incompetent to stand trial on criminal charges stemming from the 2007 hepatitis outbreak, Morrow said the memories of 54 weeks of treatment to fight off the virus came flooding back.
Nausea, memory loss, extreme exhaustion, muscle aches and pain, diarrhea, constipation, sleeplessness, hair loss -- all were side effects of the antiviral treatment that often made it difficult for her to get out of bed and ultimately cost her the legal secretary job she had held for more than 16 years.
"I had to come down here and see him (Desai)," said Morrow, 46, as Glass scheduled Desai for further evaluation in March at the state's mental hospital in Sparks. "You wonder if justice will ever be done. I really want justice to be done."
Now working as a legal secretary with another Las Vegas law firm, Morrow has become a key player in a safe injection campaign endorsed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In October she was the featured speaker at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to kickoff 2010's International Infection Prevention Week.
"I don't think Desai is the only doctor who cuts corners on safety by any means," said Morrow. "Many of them are more interested in money than us. Desai got caught."
According to city investigators who took away Desai's business license, Desai and other administrators ordered nurses to reuse syringes and reuse single-dose vials of medication -- a dangerous practice that can lead to contamination -- "in order to save money."
That Morrow feels the way she does disturbs Dr. Ivan Goldsmith, but it doesn't surprise him.
"I think many people in Las Vegas feel that way," he said. "And a big reason is because this case just keeps dragging on. People believe the fix is in. They don't see anything being done. We have to get this case behind us. This makes people lose faith in the entire system."
Goldsmith, an internist who doubts Desai is incompetent to stand trial, wishes the medical evaluations of Desai had been done by doctors out of state "who had nothing to do with Las Vegas."
He said just the appearance of impropriety smears the entire medical profession. Because he said Desai was a member of the medical board who did favors for many doctors who referred patients to him and has had ties to big wigs in both the Republican and Democratic parties, people are skeptical that authorities will treat him "like anyone else."
In 1993 former Democratic Gov. Bob Miller appointed Desai to the medical board, where he stayed until 2001. Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons named Desai to his transition team.
Even Thomas Kinsora, a Las Vegas neuropsychologist who did a 2009 evaluation of Desai for the medical board, thought an evaluation of the gastroenterologist should have been done differently.
"It would have been better if the board had this done out of state, because so many people are cynical about corruption among the medical community" in Nevada, Kinsora said in 2009.
When conflict-of-interest issues arose around the medical board for not taking away Desai's medical license as the hepatitis crisis unfolded, Gov. Jim Gibbons asked Drs. Javaid Anwar, Sohail Anjum and Daniel McBride -- either friends or business associates of Desai -- to resign from the board. They refused but recused themselves from inquiries into Desai or his clinics.
"What is happening in this town," Goldsmith said, "is that the worse possible message is being delivered: If you're a rich doctor, you can get away with murder. People want and deserve accountability. If justice isn't done soon, the medical community will never recover."
Contact reporter Paul Harasim at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2908.