LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Nevada Supreme Court has thrown out the murder conviction of a once-prominent Nevada physician who died in state prison while serving a sentence stemming from a 2007 hepatitis C outbreak at his busy Las Vegas outpatient clinics.
Five justices, in a ruling issued Thursday, cited “intervening causes” between actions by Dipak Kantilal Desai and the death of a former patient, Rodolfo Meana.
Meana was found to have contracted the incurable liver disease from a contaminated anesthesia drug that was reused in injections on multiple patients during outpatient procedures at Desai’s Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada.
Meana died in 2012 at age 77, more than four years after contracting hepatitis C. The court noted that he voluntarily declined full medical treatment before his death.
Desai was 67 when he died in April at a Reno hospital after his transfer from a medical facility at Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City. He gave up his medical license and declared bankruptcy when the outbreak became public.
His wife, Kusum Desai, continued to appeal his sentence.
Desai’s lawyer, Richard Wright, maintained for years that Desai was in such poor health after several strokes that he was unfit for trial on criminal charges. Wright didn’t immediately respond Friday to telephone and email messages.
Desai was convicted in state court and sentenced in 2013 to 18 years to life in state prison on charges also including neglect of patients, reckless disregard causing substantial bodily harm and insurance fraud.
The state high court upheld those convictions.
Desai also was serving a nearly six-year concurrent federal prison sentence handed down in July 2015 after he pleaded guilty before trial to health care fraud and conspiracy.
The hepatitis outbreak became public in early 2008 when health officials notified 63,000 former Desai clinic patients to get tested for potentially fatal blood-borne diseases. Regional health investigators eventually linked at least nine and as many as 114 cases of hepatitis C to Desai clinics.
Desai was once a member of the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners and served as gastroenterology medical director at the region’s public hospital, University Medical Center in Las Vegas.
The outbreak spawned dozens of lawsuits. Several jury findings held drug manufacturers and the state’s largest health management organization liable for hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to plaintiffs.
It also led to criminal convictions for Desai’s former clinic chief and two nurse-anesthesiologists.