Defense Rests In Nevada Hepatitis C Murder Trial

Desai (left) & Lakeman (right)

Prosecutors took 8 weeks to present their case, calling 70 witnesses, in the criminal trial of Dr. Dipak Desai and nurse anesthetist Ronald Lakeman. But in a Las Vegas courtroom, the defense wrapped up their case in chief in 8 hours calling just 2 witnesses to the stand Tuesday.

The prosecution’s final witness, county medical examiner Alane Olson, testified Monday that she shared the opinion of an autopsy done on 77-year-old Rodolfo Meana in his native Philippines, that concluded he died of complications, primarily liver failure, from hepatitis C. Prosecutors allege Meana contracted Hepatitis C as a result of contaminated propofol during a procedure at one of Desai’s endoscopy clinics. His death is the basis for a 2nd degree murder charge against the two defendants.

But one of the two defense witnesses, a medical expert from Columbia University, Dr. Howard Worman, disagreed with that opinion Tuesday. Worman, a liver specialist who practices medicine and teaches in New York City, told the jury it was “extremely unlikely” Meana died as a result of the Hepatitis C virus. Worman said Meana had a host of other unrelated medical problems, including significant damage to his kidneys.

Also on Tuesday, Dorothy Sims, a Nevada state health care inspector who participated in the investigation, testified for the defense. Sims, who works for the state Bureau of Health Care Quality and Compliance, said she considered the clinic’s procedures safe, but not the “best practice.” Sims testified she cited the endoscopy center for failing to develop a written policy banning the multi-dose use of propofol bottles.

Judge Valerie Adair gave the jury Wednesday off so attorneys could complete their requests on jury instructions for their deliberations, which are planned after closing arguments Thursday.

Desai, 63, and Lakeman, 66, are facing more than two-dozen charges, including second-degree murder for the death of Meana, criminal neglect of patients, theft and insurance fraud.
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