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Former Lab Worker Accused of Reusing Disposable Needles to Draw Blood Receives One-Year Jail Sentence
Elaine Giorgi, a former health care worker at SmithKline Beecham's medical lab in Palo Alto, Calif., who was accused of reusing disposable needles that had possibly been used to draw blood from people with HIV, on Thursday received a one-year prison term after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge of falsifying medical records, the San Jose Mercury News reports. She also plead no contest to a felony charge of illegally disposing of medical waste, for which she received four years probation (Carroll, San Jose Mercury News, 8/16). Giorgi was originally charged with two counts of "an assault that is likely to cause great bodily injury," but prosecutor Dale Sanderson dismissed those charges because of a recent California Supreme Court decision that narrowed the legal definition of "likely." The state Supreme Court opinion requires that prosecutors prove that Giorgi's reuse of the needles "posed a substantial risk of causing great injury, rather than a potential risk," and Sanderson said he did not think the evidence against Giorgi was strong enough to convict her under the new definition (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/5). It is not yet clear if Giorgi infected anyone by reusing disposable needles on multiple patients. Several former patients have tested positive for two forms of hepatitis, but it is not known whether they had the viruses before seeing Giorgi. Before sentencing Giorgi to one year in county jail, Santa Clara County, Calif., Superior Court Judge Hugh Mullin said that Giorgi would have faced a "long stretch in prison" if she had infected someone with hepatitis, HIV or another bloodborne disease and that "prison would ... do absolutely no good, except as punishment." Two civil suits are pending against Giorgi, and SmithKline Beecham is facing four such lawsuits (San Jose Mercury News, 8/16).
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