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Sentencing Over Contaminated Drug Case Possibly Not the End

Glenn Chin, of the Massachusetts-based New England Compounding Center, was sentenced to eight years in prison for his connection to contaminated drugs that killed 76 people and sickened more than 800. Federal prosecutors had attempted to see Chin convicted of the second-degree murder of 25 people who received tainted steroid shots from his facility. They […]

Glenn Chin, of the Massachusetts-based New England Compounding Center, was sentenced to eight years in prison for his connection to contaminated drugs that killed 76 people and sickened more than 800.

Federal prosecutors had attempted to see Chin convicted of the second-degree murder of 25 people who received tainted steroid shots from his facility. They based their allegations on his negligence and knowledge of the contaminated conditions of the so-called clean rooms at the facility. However, In October 2017, he was cleared of the murder charges and charged with mail fraud and racketeering, or fraudulent and dishonest business dealings, instead.

“If I had known the drugs were tainted, I would have never sent the drugs out,” he said. “I hope you will believe me when I say I am truly sorry,” Chin said in a statement to the court during sentencing.

The eight years he received were far below the possible life-sentence that prosecutors had been fighting for.

“The fungal meningitis outbreak that resulted from Chin’s and his co-defendants’ fraudulent criminal conduct was an unprecedented public health crisis in our nation’s history,” Assistant US Attorney Amanda Strachan wrote in her sentencing memo. “His crimes stole and ruined countless lives, and the pain he caused for hundreds has no foreseeable end.”

Many victims and their families spoke out against Chin. Strachan relayed how one victim’s daughter said her mother’s scream of pain could be heard from the floors below when she visited her in the hospital.

“That’s the sound that she has in her head when she thinks about her mother’s death,” Strachan said. “It’s the sound made by Glenn Chin’s conduct.”

After the sentencing, many victims told news media that they were disappointed that both Chin and his supervisor Barry Cadden were not dealt with more harshly by the criminal courts.

“I want somebody in there blamed for the deaths,” Willard Mazure, Jr., of Michigan, told ABC News. “We’ve got 80 people dead, and nobody is responsible.”

But, as in our blog on the topic in December, just because neither were convicted in criminal court doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t be held accountable for the deaths of those victims.

O.J. Simpson was famously acquitted of the murder charges for his wife. However, he was later held accountable to the tune of $33.5 million in damages to the victims’ families in civil court. So, while a criminal court could not prove Simpson’s guilt in a murder charge, a civil court could charge him based on its findings that it was more likely than not that he caused the death of his wife and her friend.

The same could be true for the victims of the NECC meningitis outbreak, to some degree.

Lawsuits Already Filed

In 2012, NECC was facing more than 400 lawsuits from patients who received the tainted steroid injections. It was that same year that they filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Massachusetts district bankruptcy court. The decision, they said, was so that they could set up a “compensation fund” for the victims as well as payout to creditors.

Later, $200 million was placed in the compensation fund. It was believed that roughly 3,300 victims qualified for compensation from the fund.

Allegations

At least three types of claims face NECC, and possibly even Cadden and Chin after the trial;

  • Wrongful Death Lawsuit
  • Product Defect
  • Medical Malpractice

Wrongful Death

When a person’s death is the result of poor design, a manufacturing defect or a failure to provide adequate instructions or warnings, those responsible may be held accountable via a wrongful death case. Compensation can be sought by the victim’s spouse and children which can include money for medical costs prior to death, funeral and burial expenses, lost wages, loss of companionship and pain and suffering.

Product Defect

The facility was shuttered by the FDA after it was found out for compounding pharmaceuticals on a mass-scale. The facility had previously been approved to mix drugs on an individual basis, but federal regulators found them to be shipping mass-produced mixtures across the United States. A significant number of which were tainted.

The FDA issued a recall for a number of products following their investigation, which could lead to product defect cases.

Medical Malpractice

The concept of medical malpractice is relatively simple: If a patient suffered harm due to a medical professional failing to reasonably perform his or her duties, the patient has the right to file a lawsuit to recover resulting damages. Medical malpractice can include failure to recognize or diagnose, inadequate sterilization or cleanliness that contributes to infection, misdiagnosis, or prescribing wrong or dangerous drugs.

At the time of the investigation, lawsuits were also including the doctors and hospital staff of victims. Since the FDA had notified medical personnel of the recalls and the dangers, they were also advised to follow up with any patients who may have received the tainted drugs.

Though no cases of illness were reported in Massachusetts, the case does go to show the far-reaching ramifications of negligence, as well as the difference between criminal and civil law when it comes to compensation for victims and their families.

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