Albert L. Weiner, O.D., began practicing osteopathic neuropsychiatry in the 1940’s; he made it into the Guiness book of records as the world’s fastest psychiatrist after his greedy conduct was made public. According to court commentaries, when he wasn’t teaching classes, or giving electro-shock therapy, he injected up to 40 patients per day (in four treatment rooms) with drugs like sodium surital, sodium amobarbital, atropine, methapyraline, hormones, vitamin B, and methan phetamine. He used about four to five dozen needles and syringes which were reused each day after sterilization–even after treating several jaundiced patients.
The assembly-line ended, temporarily, when a large serum hepatitis outbreak (41) left many dead. He was indicted (5/1/61) on 15 counts of manslaughter. After an eight‐week trial, in which 135 witnesses were called, he was convicted on 12 counts and sentenced to two to four years in prison and fined $12,000.
Dr. Weiner appealed to the Supreme Court of New Jersey and won
(State v. Weiner, 194 A. 2d 467 – NJ: Supreme Court 1963). On Oct. 21, 1963, the State Supreme Court set his conviction aside and ordered a new trial. The court also ordered the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners to restore Dr. Weiner’s license to practice “without prejudice.” (link).
Only one dissenting judge, Vincent HANEMAN (Link), himself the son of a doctor, really understood this case.
That there has been an increase in the recognized incidence of serum hepatitis since World War II is a substantiated scientific fact which has received much general publicity. In spite of the minimal information about serum hepatitis it is medically indisputable that the disease is transmitted solely by the introduction of the virus into the blood stream, and that the spread of the infection during the course of intravenous injections or infusions can be prevented by the use of aseptic instruments and medication.
We come then to the crime for which defendant was indicted in 15 separate counts involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of 15 persons, all of whom allegedly died of serum hepatitis with which they became infected as a result of defendant’s criminal negligence.
During his injections and infusions, defendant had available two methods of instrument use. He could have (1) employed new disposable needles, syringes, Ven-O-Pak tubing, and bottles of solution in the injection and infusion of each patient and thus have made certain that those instruments or equipment were uncontaminated with the serum hepatitis virus, or (2) used the same needles and syringes repetitively but only after proper sterilization to destroy the virus which possibly could have contaminated the needle and syringe by prior use upon a patient….The defendant elected to pursue the second of the above alternative courses
Sales of disposable syringes increased after the tragedy of Dr. Weiner’s unlucky patients. This case involved multi-dose vials, re-use of medical devices, poor or no sterilization, assembly-line rushed medical interventions and bad hygiene. There was no way to know if the serum hepatitis in Weiner’s practice was B or some other agent because science hadn’t advanced enough. Dr. Baruch Bloomberg’s (Navy WWII vet) Nobel lecture (Link) gives some details about his discovery of HBV in 1966. Alex has written about the Australian antigen previously. But scientists had been working on the problem of hepatitis for decades prior to the 1960s–including experiments with human subjects.
It’s a pity this widely-reported case didn’t inform and reform the medical practices of the DoD in the future. Dr. Weiner may not have been an addict sharing needles with other addicts, but his methods made him a super-spreader of hepatitis. Similarly, the DoD’s past medical practices made it the–the what?; MEGA epidemic/pandemic hepatitis/virus spreaders?champions? Or should the U.S. Public Health Service deities of that era so be crowned? Alice says, ‘Congratulations, share the crown–because you all knew what could happen after insulin was used to treat diabetes.’