District Judge Valerie Adair has reversed her decision forcing the Southern Nevada Health District to turn over information prosecutors want in the criminal prosecution tied to the hepatitis C outbreak.
In a brief minute order made public late last week, Adair sided with the health district, saying state law prohibits release of the information.
Health officials had genetically linked the hepatitis C virus to six patients at a clinic run by Dr. Dipak Desai on Sept. 21, 2007, and to another patient on July 25, 2007.
Adair had ordered the health district to turn over the names of 20 patients treated on those dates who, for various reasons, might not have been tested for the virus.
At a hearing late last month, Chief Deputy District Attorney Mike Staudaher told Adair he needed the names to track the progression of the hepatitis C infections for the upcoming trial of Desai and two of his nurse anesthetists. The 20 patients were among 128 who underwent procedures on the two dates.
Prosecutors have alleged that through unsafe injection practices, Desai and nurse anesthetists Keith Mathahs and Ronald Lakeman unlawfully spread the virus from a patient infected with hepatitis C.
Adair ordered the health district to turn over the names of the 20 patients, but the district’s lawyer, Terry Coffing, later filed court papers asking the judge to vacate the order.
Coffing argued that state law prohibits the health district from giving up the names because of privacy reasons, even if subpoenaed or ordered to do so under a search warrant obtained by law enforcement.
On Monday, Staudaher declined to say whether he would appeal Adair’s order agreeing with Coffing.
But he added, “It appears from the ruling that the statute prevents the health district from being subject to any oversight.”
Desai, 62, a gastroenterologist who has since given up his medical license, and Mathahs, 76, and Lakeman, 65, face criminal charges in the outbreak. All are free on bail.
They are set to stand trial before Adair on Oct. 22 on charges of racketeering, patient neglect, insurance fraud and obtaining money under false pretenses.
The three defendants also face a separate charge of second-degree murder before District Judge Stefany Miley, who has not yet set a trial date.
The murder indictment accuses Desai and the nurses of “introducing the hepatitis C virus” into the body of Rodolfo Meana, one of the seven genetically linked victims, during a 2007 colonoscopy. Meana, 77, died in April from complications from hepatitis C in his native Philippines.
Contact Jeff German at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-8135.