Olympus Corp. executives refused to answer questions about their e-mail correspondence discussing how to handle the deadly U.S. superbug outbreaks linked to Olympus duodenoscopes during two days of recent depositions.
Lawyers for plaintiffs suing Olympus for wrongful death, negligence, or fraud interviewed three top-ranking Olympus officials in Tokyo on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, seeking answers as to why the company warned European customers about the risks of infection posed by their medical camera devices but failed to alert U.S. customers.
At least 35 patients have died in U.S. hospitals after undergoing procedures performed with an Olympus duodenoscope – a flexible tube with a camera head that is used to probe inside the body. The head of the device is difficult to sanitize even by following the manufacturer’s instructions.
As a result, potentially life-threatening antibiotic-resistant bacteria may survive the cleaning process and become transmitted from patient to patient via the contaminated instrument.
Olympus faces more than two dozen lawsuits in the U.S. brought by patients and families of patients harmed by superbugs allegedly contracted from the Olympus devices.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the internal Olympus emails on which the deposition focused “show that Susumu Nishina, one of the three executives deposed, told the company’s U.S. managers in February 2013 not to issue a broad warning to American hospitals despite reports of scope-related infections in Dutch, French and U.S. hospitals.”
“In a Feb. 6, 2013, response to a question from a U.S. Olympus executive about whether American hospitals should be warned, Nishina replied it is ‘not need[ed] to communicate to all the users actively,’ because a company assessment of the risk to patients found it to be ‘acceptable,’” the Los Angeles Times reported.
By invoking the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, the Olympus execs are likely avoiding making statements or giving information that could be used by prosecutors in court and by federal investigators who are probing the company’s handling of its duodenoscopes, which it eventually recalled in January 2015.
Olympus officials in the U.S., who shaped their response to the superbug outbreaks under the guidance of the deposed Japanese officials, will be questioned in January 2017.
Source: Los Angeles Times