NH hospital worker sentenced to 39 years for infecting patients with hepatitis C

BY newsdesk  December 2, 2013 at 5:44 PM EDT

Flickr user ZaldyImg

David Kwiatkowski plead guilty to infecting 46 people with Hepatitis C after they were administered shots using syringes tainted with his blood. Photo by Flickr user ZaldyImg

CONCORD, N.H. — A federal judge sentenced a hospital technician to 39 years in prison Monday, The Boston Globe reports, after he pleaded guilty to infecting 46 people with hepatitis C, a blood-borne virus that damages the liver.

As a traveling radiology technician, 34-year-old David Kwiatkowski engaged in drug diversion, which the FBI describes as “when a person steals a syringe containing narcotics intended for a patient, injects himself with the drug, and replaces the drug in the syringe with another liquid (such as saline), which is then injected into the patient.” Kwiatkowski reportedly stole syringes filled with the anesthetic Fentanyl and, to avoid getting caught, rotated in syringes he had used filled with saline. Patients who were administered those “dummy” syringes were infected with his tainted blood.

Kwiatkowski pleaded guilty to 16 federal charges in August, and told investigators he has been stealing drugs since 2002. The plea agreement reduced the prison sentence to at least 30 years instead of nearly 100 if convicted in a trial, CBS News reported.

Kwiatkowski worked at 20 hospitals in eight states, the Globe reports, before being arrested as the source of a hepatitis C outbreak involving at least 30 individuals, at New Hampshire’s Exeter Hospital in 2012. Noticing a spike in patients contracting the viral infection, health officials found that the patients and Kwiatkowski shared the same strain of hepatitis C.

The Associated Press reports that Kwiatkowski job-hopped around the country, despite being fired at least four times over drug use and theft allegations.

In total, the AP reports, 46 people have been diagnosed with the same strain as Kwiatkowski’s, including patients in New Hampshire, Maryland, Kansas and Pennsylvania.