UPDATE (8/28/19 10:13 p.m.):
According to USA Today, a second death at the VA in Clarksburg has been confirmed a homicide after autopsies.
Sources said that George Nelson Shaw, Sr., 81, is the second victim of the suspicious deaths.
Sen. Joe Manchin discussed that the pre-cursor of U.S army sergeant Felix K. Mcdermott, the first death, and the investigation began with concerns raised last year.
ORIGINAL (August 23, 2019 2:44 p.m.):
CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – A lawyer representing the estate of a U.S. Army veteran who died from low blood sugar while at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg has filed a notice of claim with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, alleging that the veteran died as a result of homicide. The claim also alleges that nine to 10 other patients died at the VA under similar circumstances.
Tony O’Dell, an attorney with Tiano O’Dell in Charleston, filed the claim this week on behalf of Melanie Proctor, who is the daughter of Ret. Sgt. Felix Kirk McDermott and the administratrix of his estate.
The following information comes from the claim filed this week, which you can read in its entirety here.
McDermott, 82, of Ellenboro, was admitted to the VA on April 6, 2018 after developing pneumonia, and his condition improved. McDermott was not diagnosed with diabetes and did not have a history of ever taking any medication for the treatment of diabetes. During his stay at the VA, McDermott’s blood glucose levels were monitored by a daily fingerstick test. His levels were all shown to be in the normal range. During his stay at the VA, there were no doctor’s orders for McDermott to receive insulin.
On April 9, while still at the VA, McDermott unexpectedly developed shortness of breath. VA staff found that McDermott’s blood sugar level was very low, a condition known as hypoglycemia. Medical efforts to raise his blood sugar level were unsuccessful, and McDermott died later that morning.
McDermott’s family was told only that he died, but his cause of death was not explained to them. His body was sent to a funeral home, and he was buried on April 13.
In October 2018, inspectors with the VA Office of the Inspector General contacted Proctor and told her there was evidence that the deaths of her father and nine or 10 other patients of the Clarksburg VA were the result of being wrongfully injected with insulin in their abdomens, with her father being one of the last known victims. At that time, McDermott’s body was disinterred and sent to Dover Air Force Base for an autopsy.
The autopsy showed that McDermott had been injected with insulin in his left abdomen and that there were no hospital orders for the injection. Following the autopsy and investigation, the Armed Forces Medical Examiner ruled McDermott’s death a homicide. Investigators told McDermott’s family that they do have a person of interest in the deaths of multiple VA patients.
The claim lists a series of ways the VA was negligent in relation to McDermott’s death:
- Knowing that nine to 10 other patients died under similar circumstances prior to McDermott being admitted, he and his family should have been alerted so that they could make informed decisions about his care
- By failing to adequately staff the hospital
- By failing to investigate the causes of the previous deaths
- By failing to properly reconcile medications
- By failing to properly train staff
The claim, which is the precursor to a lawsuit, asks for $1 million for personal injury and $5 million for wrongful death, along with funeral costs and loss of income.
When asked for comment, officials at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center referred us to the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General, which we have not heard back from yet.
West Virginia’s U.S. Senators each issued statements on the situation.
“This report is shocking and if accurate, I am appalled that these crimes were not only committed but that our Veterans, who have sacrificed so much for our country, were the victims. As a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee I will do everything in my power to investigate these accusations and get to the bottom of what happened. These families and loved ones deserve answers as soon as possible and I will make sure they get them.”Sen. Joe Manchin-D
“This news is sickening and troubling. My office has reached out to the VA to learn more details, and I will do everything I can to make sure this is fully investigated.”Sen. Shelley Moore Capito-R
“Congressman McKinley is aware of an ongoing investigation at Clarksburg by the Veterans Administration Office of the Inspector General. We hope to get more answers about this situation as that investigation progresses,” said Amanda Hyman, Communications Director for U.S. Rep. David McKinley-R.
The investigation was opened in July 2018 after the leadership of the Clarksburg VA alerted investigators to “unexplained diagnosis of severe low blood sugar in several patients,” government sources said.
McDermott retired from the U.S. Army as a sergeant after 20 years of active duty, during which time he served in Vietnam. Following his retirement, he spent time in the Pennsylvania National Guard.