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Las Vegas urologist case goes to federal jury

A federal jury began deliberating the fate Wednesday of a longtime Las Vegas urologist accused of reusing needle guides meant for single use during prostate procedures.

Dr. Michael S. Kaplan, 59, has been standing trial since Sept. 15 on one count of conspiracy to commit adulteration and one count of making a false statement to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

His lead defense lawyer, Dominic Gentile, told the jury before it left to deliberate that the physician’s conduct did not rise to the level of a crime and no one’s health was threatened. He also argued that Kaplan did not wilfully lie to an FDA agent.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Crane Pomerantz countered, “Michael Kaplan lit a fuse and is darn lucky that bomb didn’t go off in someone’s face.”

Pomerantz again argued that Kaplan put profits before his patients and lied to cover up the scheme, which they say occurred between December 2010 and May 2011.

Kaplan’s reaction to the FDA investigation of his medical practice was a classic case of “damage control” and “circling the wagons,” Pomerantz said.

Employees who exposed the reuse of the needle guides in 2011 were let go and Kaplan employed a team of lawyers and public relations consultants to help him prepare a full-page ad in the Las Vegas Review-Journal with his spin on the allegations, Pomerantz said.

Both Gentile and Pomerantz asked the jury to use their common sense in reaching a verdict. The panel got the case at noon and left for the day about 5 p.m. Deliberations are to resume Thursday.

Prosecutors contend Kaplan, who has been practicing medicine in Nevada since 1991, ignored warning labels on needle guide packages prohibiting the reuse of the disposable guides. Patients were not told about the reuse.

The guides, plastic-covered sheaths through which needles are directed to obtain biopsy material, were alleged to have been reused and not cleaned properly between December 2010 and March 2011. Biopsies are generally done to determine if someone has prostate cancer.

Prosecutors described in graphic detail during the eight-day trial how blood, feces, bacteria and even viruses were pulled from the rectum of patients by needles through the guides during a 20-minute procedure. If the guides are not thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, material left in them can be transferred to other patients, prosecutors said.

Medical assistants testified that they saw traces of a “reddish” liquid in one plastic guide before it was reused and “brown stuff” on scratches of another one.

Kaplan’s medical license was suspended briefly in March 2011 after a joint investigation by the FDA and Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners.

The Southern Nevada Health District sent letters to 101 of his patients, advising them to get tested for HIV and hepatitis B and C. The district did not report a positive case among the patients.

Kaplan’s lawyers tried to get the trial moved out of Las Vegas because of publicity from the criminal case of Dr. Dipak Desai, who was convicted last year of reusing disposable medical devices during procedures. The misconduct led to a hepatitis outbreak and at least two deaths.

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

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