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November 27, 2014

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Evaluations ordered for doctor in hepatitis C outbreak

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Dipak Desai

The doctor at the center of the 2007-2008 hepatitis C outbreak in Las Vegas has been ordered to undergo a physical and mental medical evaluation to determine if he will be able to stand trial.

In a brief hearing Wednesday morning, Judge Donald Mosley said Dr. Dipak Desai would have an independent medical evaluation under the direction of Judge Jackie Glass.

Desai and two others have been indicted on 28 charges, including racketeering, performance of an act in reckless disregard of persons or property, criminal neglect of patients, insurance fraud, theft and obtaining money under false pretenses.

A five-week trial is expected to begin March 14, 2011, in Clark County District Court.

But Desai, who was not at Wednesday’s hearing, had suffered a stroke since 2008, and Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Staudaher said he was concerned Desai would use his medical condition to avoid appearing in court and participating in legal proceedings.

Mosley said he would ask Glass to add the physical medical evaluation to an already-ordered mental evaluation to determine Desai’s condition. Desai is scheduled to appear before Glass for a hearing at 9:30 a.m. July 29.

Staudaher asked the court to require Desai’s attorney to turn over all of his medical records, but attorney Richard Wright said he shouldn’t be required to turn over evidence that could be used against his client by the district attorney.

Wright didn’t object to having an independent medical evaluation, however.

Desai’s medical issues will not be part of his defense, Wright said.

“There is no medical defense I am raising in this case. There is no mental defense I am raising in this case,” he said. “This isn’t a question of was he medically fit or psychologically competent. I haven’t asserted insanity, I haven’t asserted diminished capacity.”

The charges against Desai, who ran the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, and two of his nurse anaesthetists, Keith H. Mathahs and Ronald E. Lakeman, are tied to a hepatitis outbreak that infected at least nine patients.

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