Officials investigate 10 'suspicious' deaths at West Virginia VA hospital

Elizabeth Howe
August 28, 2019 - 9:14 am
West Virginia VA Hospital

VA

By Abbie Bennett and Elizabeth Howe

In the wake of a lawsuit alleging up to ten wrongful veteran deaths at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in ClarksburgWest Virginia, the Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General has launched an investigation.

A statement released by VA Inspector General Michael J. Missal read that his office "has been working with our federal law enforcement partners to investigate the allegations of potential wrongdoing resulting in patient deaths at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia."

The statement did not share any additional information regarding the investigation.

At least one homicide has been confirmed from the VA hospital. 

Vietnam Veteran Felix Kirk McDermott died at the Medical Center from a fatal dose of insulin in April 2018. His daughter, Melanie Proctor, told USA Today that investigators told her his death was one of about 10 the agency was reviewing and that all received "suspicious" doses of insulin

This veteran's death at a VA hospital was ruled a homicide — and there could be ten more

McDermott was not diabetic. He had never taken insulin. There were no hospital orders authorizing the administration of insulin to him, Connecting Vets previously reported. The Armed Forces Medical Examiner ruled his death a homicide.

A lawsuit recently filed by McDermott's family claims McDermott, a retired Army sergeant with 20 years of active duty service, was admitted to the Louis A. Johnson VAMC in early April 2018 with pneumonia. His condition improved during his initial stay. Three days later, he died of hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar. McDermott was buried four days later. Hospital employees offered no explanation to the family. 

"As is always the case, the VA OIG works with the Department to identify and urgently address allegations related to patient safety," Missal's statement closes. "The care and safety of our veterans and their families remain our top priority."

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin's staff confirmed that officials are investigating a "person of interest" in relation to the deaths and that the person "is no longer" in contact with veterans at the hospital. 

"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," said Manchin, D-W. Va. "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."

"This news is sickening and troubling," said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W. Va. "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."

A VA spokesman told USA Today that VA notified the inspector general of "serious allegations" of possible wrongdoing discovered last year at the hospital. The West Virginia VA has since established "safeguards" to "ensure the safety of each and every one of our patients" and the VA is "cooperating fully" with the investigation. 

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