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Desai suffers another possible stroke; Thursday hearing set for case

Dipak Desai, the physician charged in the 2007 hepatitis C outbreak, was treated for another possible stroke during a hospital stay last week, the Las Vegas Review-Journal has learned.

Desai, who has had two previous strokes, was admitted by ambulance to Summerlin Hospital on Feb. 24 and released Friday.

His lead lawyer, Richard Wright, on Monday declined to comment on the six-day hospital stay .

But Chief Deputy District Attorney Mike Staudaher, the lead prosecutor in the case, confirmed that an “event has occurred” and said it would be discussed in court Thursday.

District Judge Valerie Adair, who is presiding over Desai’s April 22 trial, is to meet in court Thursday with lawyers for both sides.

Wright is expected to use the hospital stay to bolster his long-standing argument that Desai is not competent to stand trial.

During a hearing in January, Adair denied Wright’s bid to suspend the criminal case so legal proceedings could be reopened to determine his competency.

Wright argued that a psychiatric evaluation commissioned by the defense late last year cast doubt on whether Desai had the ability to assist his lawyers.

Staudaher reacted angrily to the defense move during the hearing. “He’s crazy like a fox,” Staudaher told Adair. “He’s as competent as you and I are.”

Desai, 63, and nurse anesthetist Ronald Lakeman, 65, face a series of charges, including second-degree murder, theft, insurance fraud and obtaining money under false pretenses.

Another nurse charged in the case, Keith Mathahs, 76, pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against Desai and Lakeman.

The murder charge stems from the death of Rodolfo Meana, a victim of the 2007 outbreak.

Desai performed the colonoscopy on Meana that led to his hepatitis infection, and Mathahs participated in the procedure.

Lakeman did not participate, but prosecutors contend he was 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 patients.

Health 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 the vials had become contaminated by patients with hepatitis C.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135.

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