Nurse Sentenced for Infecting Dozens of Patients With Hep C From Dirty Syringes

A traveling nurse with a drug addiction was sentenced on Monday to 39 years in prison. While that may seem a bit harsh for a medical employee swiping some prescription painkillers, in this case a lot of people think it isn’t enough.

David Kwiatkowski, 34, admitted to “stealing painkillers and replacing them with saline-filled syringes tainted with his blood.” He has hepatitis C. Since his arrest last year, 46 people in four states have been diagnosed with the same strain of hep C that he carries.


He said that he was very sorry for what he had done after hearing from about 20 people that he infected or their relatives. “I don’t blame the families for hating me,” he said. “I hate myself.” He also said that his crime was caused by an addiction to painkillers and alcohol.

First of all -- no. His crime was caused by his decision to commit a criminal act, and then carrying it out. But you know, details, details.

Second -- Why was this guy still working? It’s reported that he was a cardiac technologist in 18 hospitals in seven states, and that he moved from job to job “despite being fired at least four times over allegations of drug use and theft.”

Where was the breakdown in communication? Because I’m going to go out on a limb and say that hospitals probably don’t want to hire a health care worker with a history of multiple drug allegations.

His victims include a Kansas patient who died in part from complications of contracting the blood-borne virus, namely liver disease and chronic health problems, and another woman whose brother was recently diagnosed with leukemia. Siblings are usually the best matches for stem cell transplants, but she’s invalidated as a donor thanks to her hepatitis C status.

Does this make you want to ask your doctor to double check for clean needles next time you get a shot?

Image via Kreg Steppe/Flickr

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