Judge orders independent evaluations of doctor charged in hepatitis outbreak

District Judge Jackie Glass on Thursday launched the process of determining whether Dr. Dipak Desai, the doctor charged in the 2007 hepatitis outbreak, is competent to stand trial.

At a brief hearing , Glass ordered the appointment of two medical experts from a court-approved panel to conduct independent evaluations of Desai. She instructed court officials to ensure the experts had no past dealings with Desai in the medical profession.

Glass issued the order after Desai’s attorney, Richard Wright, supplied the court with what he called 98 percent of Desai’s medical records covering strokes suffered in 2007 and 2008.

Desai, 60, a gastroenterologist who gave up his medical license following the outbreak, is scheduled to stand trial March 14 on several felony charges, including racketeering, insurance fraud and neglect of patients. Two of his former nurse anesthetists, Keith Mathahs and Ronald Lakeman, also are charged in the case.

The charges revolve around the health cases of seven people authorities say were infected in 2007 with the potentially deadly hepatitis C virus at Desai’s Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada.

Wright contends the July 2008 stroke left Desai with a “cognitive impairment” that diminished his ability to assist his lawyers. Prosecutors challenge that claim.

In June, Chief Deputy District Attorney Mike Staudaher filed court papers accusing Desai of hiding “behind a curtain of mental and physical impairment so he can avoid facing consequences of his actions.”

On Thursday, Glass granted the prosecutor’s request for Wright to supply additional records of any therapy Desai has had since his second stroke.

Glass also ordered Wright to turn over records that might show if Desai sought or obtained disability insurance to pay for any post-stroke rehabilitative services.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135 or read more courts coverage at lvlegalnews.com.

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