Hep C patient feared Farazli endoscopy unsanitary
Claims treatment by Ottawa doctor named in lawsuit painful
One of at least five former patients of Dr. Christiane Farazli who later contracted either hepatitis B or hepatitis C has told CBC News about the pain he endured during an endoscopy procedure he believes wasn't sanitary.
Robert Chenier is among the 1,200 people currently involved in a $10-million class-action lawsuit against Farazli, over an infection scare in which thousands of patients were told they might have been exposed to hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV during treatment.
"I know that thing, they didn't clean it before they put it in me," Chenier recounted Thursday.
The former patient cringes when he recalls the details. He claims that not only was his endoscopy session with Farazli unsanitary — it also hurt.
"I was yelling and yelling," he said, adding that staff ordered him to let them carry on with their work.
"My brother was in the waiting room. He heard me yell in pain."
Chenier, who already suffers from a number of health problems, including chronic pain and anxiety, now has to deal with the results of his blood test.
Difficult to prove link
While lawyers had previously announced that four people were infected with hepatitis C after receiving the notification to have themselves tested, on Thursday, they claimed that number climbed to at least five cases. It is not yet clear whether the latest patient has hepatitis B or C.
"She told me I did not have HIV, but tested positive for hepatitis C," Chenier said.
Still, proving he was infected due to a procedure he underwent at Farazli's clinic will be difficult.
The probability that he contracted the infection from improperly sterilized equipment is roughly 1 in 50 million, according to Ottawa public health.
Those are nearly "impossible" odds, said Dr. Mark Tyndall, with Ottawa Hospital, noting that an estimated one per cent of people have antibodies to hepatitis C.
Statistically, among the 6,800 former patients of Dr. Farazli, an estimated 68 could test positive for hepatitis C.
"Pinpointing where the patients acquired their infection is the real challenge," said Tyndall.
Chenier, for instance, was an intravenous drug user for years — a top risk factor for hepatitis C. Still, he insists he's been clean for 15 years, showing a clean bill of health from 2007 that, he says, proves he didn't have hepatitis C before he began seeing Farazli.
The class-action suit against Farazli claims the specialist "failed to consistently follow standard and statutory practices and procedures used to clean endoscopes, and that her patients have suffered worry, anxiety and possible bodily injuries as a result."
Lawyer Nicholas Robinson of Merchant Law Group LLP, who is representing the former patients, was careful to say they will need expertise to figure out how to make the link.
"We have to show it is possible that these people could have contracted the illness," Robinson said. "It's our position that it's something that's likely already been admitted by the defendants - that it is possible that [the patients] could have contracted the illness."
There are still people waiting to hear the results of their blood tests, so it's possible more testimonials from patients will be emerging in the coming days.