Meningitis lawsuit says TN senator-doctor gave tainted injection

A Tennessee state senator has been named in court papers as the physician who injected a victim of the fungal meningitis outbreak with the tainted spinal steroid that led to her lengthy illness.

In a suit filed in U.S. District Court, attorneys for Joan M. Peay of Nashville wrote that Dr. Steven Dickerson, a member of the Tennessee Senate, was the one who injected her with the steroid.

Dickerson, who is not named as a defendant in the case, injected Peay with contaminated methylprednisolone acetate on Sept. 7, 2012, at the Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgical Center, the 31-page complaint states.

Dickerson, a Nashville Republican serving his first term, has declined to respond to questions about his role at the neurosurgical center.

The Tennessean reported Sunday that records showed Dickerson, who is an anesthesiologist, injected at least two other patients with the same drug at the same clinic in August and September of last year, just before the fungal meningitis outbreak became public.

An aide issued a brief comment late last week stating that Dickerson did not want to comment out of concern for the victims and their privacy.

"Like all Nashvillians, Dr. Dickerson is focusing his concerns and thoughts on the well-being of the patients in Tennessee and throughout the United States who developed fungal meningitis," the aide wrote in an email.

The senator did not respond to a second request for comment Tuesday.

The Peay suit was one of several to be filed as a statutory deadline approaches. In Tennessee, claims under the state health care and product liability laws must be filed within a year of when the victim becomes aware of the cause of the wrong they have suffered. Sixteen Tennessee patients have died in the outbreak and 64 have died nationwide.

"Mrs. Peay did not discover, and reasonably could not have discovered until Oct. 2, 2012, that she had received an injection of contaminated methylprednisolone acetate," according to the complaint.

Peay began to feel unusual soreness a few weeks after the injection and experienced a severe headache and other symptoms of fungal meningitis in late September. That was just before she learned on Oct. 1 about the outbreak, according to the suit.

The next day she was hospitalized, the suit states, and remained ill and under treatment for several months.

Defendants in the suit include the neurosurgical center, the owners of the drug compounding company that produced the steroid and a testing company.

Another local victim, Amarjit Deol, also filed suit this week against the neurosurgical center and the owners of the drug compounding firm that state and federal regulators have blamed for the outbreak.

Deol, according to the 54-page complaint, got two spinal injections at the Nashville center, both in September. She underwent several lumbar punctures before finally being diagnosed with fungal meningitis.

She also underwent surgery for a fungal abscess.

Still another suit was filed on behalf of Joseph Pellicone, formerly of Franklin, who had two injections of spinal steroids in August 2012 and later underwent two lumbar punctures before being diagnosed with meningitis.

He was hospitalized three times and also underwent surgery for an abscess.


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