Defense lawyers were in court Tuesday seeking the dismissal of the murder indictment against Dr. Dipak Desai and nurse anesthetist Ronald Lakeman in the hepatitis C outbreak.
Desai, 63, who attended the hearing, and Lakeman, 65, are facing a second-degree murder charge stemming from the death this year of Rodolfo Meana, a victim of the 2007 outbreak.
Margaret Stanish, who represents Desai, and Rick Santacroce, who is defending Lakeman, told District Judge Valerie Adair that the indictment violates their clients' due process rights and does not directly tie them to the cause of Meana's death.
"My client had nothing, nothing to do with Mr. Meana," Santacroce said. "To allow this indictment to go forward is absolutely absurd."
Keith Mathahs, another nurse anesthetist, participated in the colonoscopy Desai performed on Meana that led to his infection.
But Chief Deputy District Attorney Mike Staudaher argued Tuesday that Lakeman was just as culpable in Meana's death under the theory of the murder charge, which alleges all three defendants were part of the conspiracy that endangered the lives of Desai's patients.
Mathahs, 76, pleaded guilty on Monday to five criminal charges, including patient neglect resulting in Meana's death. Mathahs agreed to testify against Desai and Lakeman at their April 22 trial.
Adair promised a decision next week on whether to toss out the indictment.
The indictment accuses Desai, a gastroenterologist who has surrendered his medical license, and the nurse anesthetists of unlawfully "introducing the hepatitis C virus" into Meana's body while he underwent the colonoscopy in 2007.
Meana, 77, died in April of complications from hepatitis C in his native Philippines. His infection was among seven that health officials genetically linked to Desai's main clinic, the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada. Health officials have said dozens more cases were "possibly linked" to the clinic.
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 outbreak was blamed on nurse anesthetists reusing vials of the sedative propofol between patients after they had become contaminated by patients with hepatitis C.
Desai, Lakeman and Mathahs, were originally charged in June 2010 with several felony counts, including racketeering, neglect of patients and insurance fraud. The murder indictment was filed in August.
Contact Jeff German at email@example.com or 702-380-8135.