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Tuesday, April 16
The Indiana Daily Student

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Surgery tech admits stealing painkillers

A surgery technician who infected three dozen people with hepatitis C and might have exposed thousands of others by switching used syringes with ones filled with a powerful painkiller says she got careless and doesn’t expect to be forgiven.

Before a hearing where she’ll be sentenced to 20 years in prison, Kristen Diane Parker described for prosecutors how she slipped through a hospital’s drug screening process and began stealing drugs as she coped with a heroin addiction.

“I can’t ask for forgiveness,” a tearful Parker, 27, told Assistant U.S. Attorney Jaime Pena during a videotaped interview. “I don’t expect anybody to forgive me for what I’ve done. You know, I’m human. I was a drug addict.”

Parker pleaded guilty to tampering with a consumer product and obtaining a controlled substance by deceit or subterfuge. She admitted stealing syringes filled with Fentanyl from operating carts while employed at Denver’s Rose Medical Center and Colorado Springs’ Audubon Surgery Center. Fentanyl is 80 to 100 times more powerful than
morphine.

Her sentencing hearing is set for Friday in federal court in Denver.

She told prosecutors she injected herself with the Fentanyl, then replaced it with saline. She said she intended to put the saline in clean needles but got careless. Parker maintains she didn’t know she had hepatitis C.

Prosecutors say her scheme exposed nearly 6,000 patients at the two hospitals to the incurable liver disease. Thirty-six of them got infected.

“It really doesn’t matter if it’s one or 30,” author and freelance writer Pat Criscito of Monument, south of Denver, said Saturday, adding she thought Parker should have faced attempted murder charges. “There are some people who are not going to live as long as they were going to because of her.”

Criscito was one of the thousands tested, but her case turned out negative.
Investigations also were launched in Mount Kisco, New York, and in Houston, where Parker previously worked.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease that can cause serious liver problems, including cirrhosis or liver cancer. Symptoms can include nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, pain and jaundice.

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