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Former Mayo Clinic radiology tech sentenced to 30 years for infecting 5 people with Hepatitis C

10:28 PM, Sep 10, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It was an emotional day at the federal courthouse as Steven Beumel was sentenced to 30 years in prison for infecting five patients with Hepatitis C at the Mayo Clinic.

The sentencing followed a daylong hearing with Beumel's family and families of the victims, who were present to weigh in on the case.

A liver transplant patient who was infected by Beumel, William Ramsey, died following complications with Hepatitis C in June of 2010.
 
Beumel, 49, entered a guilty plea to ten counts of tampering and theft of a controlled substance, Fentanyl. The radiological technician worked with patients in the transplant center and swapped syringes during operations to get the opiate used to relieve patients of pain. 

During testimony at Beumel's sentencing hearing, District Judge Marcia Morales Howard heard a 25-minute confession Beumel gave to investigators, acknowledging that he swapped syringes and in some cases used a saline solution to replace Fentanyl for his own use.

During the confession, Beumel said he had "basically easy access" both during the procedure and during its disposal.
 
Beumel told the judge he was sorry for what he had done, saying he was addicted to the pain killer.

"I made some terrible mistakes, I am sorry," said the father of two children. He also apologized to the families who had a loved one infected.
 
Family members of Ramsey's told the judge of the pain Ramsey experienced trying to fight the virus.
 
"He gave my father a death sentence," said Bonnie Ramsey, who asked the judge to give Beumel a life sentence.
 
"I still am full of hatred because my dad was my best friend and I saw him die so slowly. It was such a horrific death watching him die of almost four years," said the minister's daughter, who said she is in counseling to cope with her dad's death. "I never thought about hatred until this happened."
 
In 2007, Mayo Clinic began an investigation after two patients who previously were tested came down with Hepatitis C following transplant operations. With advances in medical testing, doctors were able to trace the source of infection to Beumel, who at first refused to be blood tested, but finally agreed to be tested.
 
More than 3,000 patients at Mayo Clinic were tested as a precaution with five people found to have Hepatitis C. 

William Ramsey died without knowing the truth.

"They told him he got it from a miscellaneous bag of blood," Bonnie Ramsey said.

It wasn't until a few months after his death, their family learned of Beumel's role.

But Ramsey is glad her father never knew.

"I think he would have had a lot more anger if he knew that it was one employee instead of just a miscellaneous bag of blood that was tainted that they didn't catch," Ramsey said.

Since this incident, Mayo Clinic has tighter controls in place for handling Fentanyl. Also, it has a process now in place for drug screening new hires.

Beumel told the court he doesn't know how he was infected with Hepatitis C, noting he had not been screened in more than 20 years.

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