As former Exeter Hospital medical technician David M. Kwiatkowski is sentenced today, his victims will tell a federal judge the physical and emotional torment they endured after contracting hepatitis C from the man prosecutors say touched off a “national public health crisis.”
Kwiatkowski, 34, infected at least 45 patients with the potentially fatal blood-borne disease when he worked as a medical technician in at least eight different states between 2003 and 2012. Of these, 32 were patients at Exeter Hospital who became infected with the same hepatitis C strain linked to Kwiatkowski. Six were infected while being treated at a Kansas medical center — one of whom died.
Kwiatkowski pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Concord on Aug. 14 to eight counts each of tampering with a consumer product and obtaining controlled substances by fraud in connection with seven of the New Hampshire cases and the fatal Kansas case.
Kwiatkowski agreed to serve a minimum 30 years in federal prison under the plea agreement. But the government will seek a 40-year sentence for the man it calls a “serial infector” whose chronic alcohol and narcotic abuse began while in high school in Michigan and continued right up until his July 19, 2012, arrest. He was drinking about a fifth of vodka a day while a staff employee at Exeter Hospital, court records say.
U.S. Attorney John P. Kacavas of New Hampshire acknowledged the higher term exceeds recommended guidelines, but is warranted given Kwiatkowski’s actions resulted in one victim’s death and inflicted widespread damage and infection — the full extent of which may never be known, the government claims.
The government argues Kwiatkowski deserves the longer sentence because he learned he had hepatitis C in 2010, yet continued swapping off tainted syringes, knowing the risk of infection this posed. Kwiatkowski worked mainly as a traveling medical technician at hospitals in Maryland, Arizona, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Georgia and New Hampshire.
By his own admission, Kwiatkowski exposed more than 100 people to the virus by injecting himself with syringes filled with the painkiller fentayl intended for patients, filling the used syringes with saline, then setting them back on the tray for patient use. Kwiatkowski’s syringe-swapping scam was discovered in May 2012.
Defense attorneys Jonathan R. Saxe and Bjorn Lange said a 30-year sentence is consistent with comparable cases. They also noted Kwiatkowski accepted responsibility and indicated he would plead guilty not long after his arrest — saving victims from having to prepare for trial and the government the costs of a trial.
The defense also argued Kwiatkowski’s addictive behavior was fairly well documented during his career, yet resulted in little, if any, treatment.
“The scope and severity of the damage wrought by Kwiatkowski’s conduct warrants significant punishment, but the court should take into account the pernicious and escalating effects of the untreated addictive illness which he has suffered since he was a teenager in Michigan,” they wrote.
Distributed by MCT Information Services