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Urologist gets four years in prison for reusing medical devices

Urologist Michael Kaplan was sentenced to four years in federal prison Tuesday for reusing equipment meant for single use in medical procedures.

Kaplan 60, who was licensed to practice medicine in Nevada in 1990, was convicted by a federal jury in September of one felony count of conspiracy to commit adulteration. The charge stemmed from his reuse of rectal needle guides during prostate biopsies on his patients, mostly cancer victims.

Federal prosecutors, arguing Kaplan endangered the lives of his patients out of greed and arrogance, sought the sentence, which was harsher than the 33 to 41 months recommended by probation officers.

Even the well-publicized and deadly hepatitis C outbreak caused by the unlawful reuse of medical equipment by Dr. Dipak Desai failed to deter Kaplan from reusing the devices, Assistant U.S. Attorney Crane Pomerantz said.

Kaplan told Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro that he never imagined he would be standing before her.

“I always put my patients first,” he said, adding he considered himself dedicated to his profession and would not have done what he did had he known what he knows now.

But Pomerantz said Kaplan showed an “utter lack of remorse” for putting his patients in harm’s way, and the government was “mortified” by his “unspeakable crime.”

San Francisco defense lawyer Dennis Riordan argued for probation for Kaplan, predicting the criminal case would be overturned on appeal. He suggested the jury wrongly concluded that Kaplan’s actions amounted to a felony.

Navarro acknowledged that Kaplan has some appeal issues from his trial before a different judge, but she sided with the government in handing down the tougher sentence.

“It’s difficult to believe, Dr. Kaplan, that you were taking into consideration the interests of your patients,” she said.

Navarro said she sympathizes with Kaplan’s patients, who underwent life-changing experiences being exposed to potential viruses. None of the 100-plus patients became infected, but many suffered stress, she said.

Navarro allowed Kaplan to remain free while he appeals his conviction and set a Nov. 10 status check on the progress of the appeal.

Kaplan had built his urology practice into one of the largest in Las Vegas, but gave up his practice after his conviction because he could no longer get insurance, his lawyers said.

Prosecutors alleged Kaplan reused the $18 needle guides during procedures between December 2010 and March 2011 and then “defrauded and misled” his patients, the public and law enforcement authorities by trying to conceal the practice.

The guides, plastic-covered sheaths through which needles are directed to obtain biopsy material, were not properly cleaned before reuse, prosecutors alleged.

Kaplan’s professional misdeeds were revealed in 2011 after a joint investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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

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