West Virginia VA medical center slammed with lawsuits concerning patient deaths ruled as homicides.
A third lawsuit has been issued against the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia, concerning the death of 87-year-old Navy veteran John William Hallman in June 2018. The suit was filed on behalf of Hallman’s daughter, Melanie Proctor, as well as his son, by attorney Tony O’Dell and seeks unspecified damages from the VA hospital.
Just a few months after Hallman passed away, his death certificate was amended and his immediate cause of death was listed as “unexplained hypoglycemia,” otherwise known as low blood sugar. The new filing states that an unidentified employee had “given Hallman a shot of insulin despite no physician’s order being issued.” The insulin drastically lowered Hallman’s blood glucose levels.
What’s more, the lawsuit says that before the man’s death, the night shift on the same hospital floor “experienced sudden severe unexplained patient decline leading to patient death on at least 9 occasions,” according to court paperwork. These incidents involved patients with critically low blood sugar.
A lawsuit was also filed against the facility in April on behalf of the widow of George Nelson Shaw Sr., an 81-year-old retired member of the Air Force. The suit also targets Veteran Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie, citing “widespread system of failures” at the hospital.
The Shaw lawsuit recalls Norma’s husband was “admitted to the hospital on March 22, 2018, for lower extremity swelling, fatigue, weakness and shortness of breath. He died on April 10, 2018. A physician determined the cause of death was heart disease and advanced dementia but did not make a mandatory referral to a state medical examiner for an autopsy.” When an autopsy was later performed, it revealed he had “four insulin injection sites on both arms and one leg.”
Similar to the most recent lawsuit, Shaw’s states, “No physician order was issued for the injections and that the hospital failed to securely store insulin and prevent its access by unauthorized personnel. It alleges an employee who administered the injection was not qualified to be a nursing assistant and that hospital staff failed to take appropriate action to stop the employee from giving the shots.”
Another filing, in March, details the death of former Army Sgt. Felix Kirk McDermott, 82, who also died in April 2018. Federal prosecutors believe there could be, in total, up to eleven similar patient deaths at the hospital. The cases of McDermott and Shaw have been ruled homicides, and court paperwork alleges “before June 13, 2018, the Clarksburg VA Medical Center experienced a noticeable and statistically appreciable high death rate in patients admitted on Floor 3A.”
Bill Powell, the U.S. attorney for northern West Virginia, has said “the investigation is a top priority.” But However, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia told Attorney General William Barr in 2019 that he “had grave concerns over the pace of the investigation.”
The VA inspector general told Manchin’s office about the opening of medical and criminal investigations against the VA hospital in July 2018 after the suspicious low blood sugar incidents were reported. Veteran Affairs is the government’s second-largest department, responsible for 9 million military veterans.