When you roll up your sleeve to get an injection do you ever think about asking the doctor or nurse whether they are reusing the needle? Most people would never think to, but unsafe injections are a serious and potentially deadly problem.

The recent articles regarding thousands of patients in upstate New York who may have been exposed to life threatening diseases due to hospitals reusing insulin pens are only the most recent example of how unsafe injection practices can expose patients to deadly illnesses. The CDC has estimated that more than 150,000 patients nationwide have been impacted by unsafe injection practices that exposed them to life threatening blood borne illnesses.

The CDC has issued lengthy guidelines for medical professionals, which stress that doctors and medical professionals must NEVER use insulin pens or fingerstick devices for more than one person, and they can NEVER re-use needles or administer medication from a single dose vial to multiple patients.

Despite these clear mandates, unsafe injections are a huge problem in New York. In October 2009, 4,500 patents treated by a Manhattan anesthesiologist received letters from NYC urging them to get tested for hepatitis B and C and HIV because the doctor had reused syringes while administering anesthesia to patients. In 2007, the Department of Health notified 8,000 patents of another anesthesiologist that the doctors had reused syringes thereby exposing them to Hepatitis C.

In Michigan the Senate criminalized unsafe injections, and voted to prohibit a health care provider from knowingly reusing, recycling, or refurbishing for reuse a “reprocessed single-use medical device” on a patient unless it meets certain sterility standards. Violators are subject to a 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine for violations. Given the thousands of New Yorkers put at risk by unsafe injections here, our legislature should consider doing the same. What do you think?