First lawsuit filed in string of VA deaths

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CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – A wrongful death lawsuit filed this week in United States District Court in West Virginia’s Northern District will most likely be the first of many. 

The suit, filed by Melanie Proctor on behalf of her late father, Ret. U.S. Army Sgt. Felix Kirk McDermott, 82, of Ellenboro, seeks judgment in a case prompted by the ongoing federal investigation of 11 suspicious deaths that took place in a Clarksburg VA medical center.

The complaint says Dr. Glenn R. Snider Jr., the Medical Center Director of the Louis A . Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, along with the center’s medical team, “violated non-discretionary rules, directives, and protocols they were required to follow to deliver safe quality medical care to Veterans.”

“The violations of these non-discretionary rules, directives, and protocols were a cause of Sergeant McDermott’s death,” the complaint states.

According to the complaint, as a result of the Defendant’s, “negligence, carelessness, reckless, incompetent management and supervision, willful lack of care, deviations for the applicable standard of medical care, and violations of non-discretionary dutied, protocol, directives and rules, Ret. Army Sgt. McDermott suffered pain, fear, mental anguish, anxiety and then death.”

Since early 2018, at least 10 U.S. military veterans died while patients at the VA Hospital in Clarksburg. They passed away from complications caused by unwarranted insulin injections, even though they were not diabetic.

The July 2018 death of 92-year old World War II veteran Russell Posey prompted the federal investigation into nine previous, similar deaths.

After his death, Posey’s family members report they met and spoke with the “person of interest” in this case. They say she expressed surprise Mr. Posey was still alive, days after an insulin shot made him ill.

“It is eerie and creepy that the person who appears to have been doing this was actually interacting with these families while they were concerned about their loved one dying,”Tony O’Dell, an attorney for VA victims, said.

Later O’Dell said he learned insulin in the facility was not properly locked up, a potential VA violation.

In November, Proctor spoke out about her father’s death, in which federal officers were suspicious because McDermott and several of the other victims, died of insulin overdoses. 

As 13 News has previously reported, the veterans were given shots by a hospital employee, even though they were not diabetic. It was later determined the female employee, who was fired and was named the “person of interest,” did not have the medical certification she claimed.

Other alleged victims include Archie Edgell, William Holloway, George Nelson Shaw Sr. and John Hallman.

In part, the lawsuit alleges, “Prior to April 9, 2018, the Floor 3A night shift experienced sudden severe unexplained patient decline leading to patient death on at least the following dates: July 30, 2017, January 29, 2019, March 6, 2018, March 22, 2018, and two Patient Events during the night of April 3, 2018.

“By the time Medical Center Director Dr. Snider alerted the Office of Inspector General (OIG), the watchdog arm of the Department of Veterans Affairs, that many Floor 3A night shift sudden severe unexplained hypoglycemia deaths had occurred, emergency department staff openly commented that if patients were admitted to Floor 3A they would die, and there was active communication among the Clarksburg VAMC staff, including Dr. Snider and the Leadership team, about the unexplained deaths long before those deaths were ever reported to the OIG,” the complaint states.

According to the complaint, the medical staff failed to make the mandatory referral after McDermott’s death.

More than 6-months after McDermott’s death, officials exhumed his body and an autopsy was conducted, after which officials determined he died by homicide.

Medical officials determined the 10 victims were given an unnecessary insulin shot, casing a plummet in blood sugar, prompting a fatal heart attack.

“This is exactly the pattern. You have someone who is not on their death bed, who appears to be getting better. Then all of a sudden having a medically unexplained severe hypoglycemic event that ends up causing their death,” O’Dell said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia empaneled a grand jury in early January.

This Justice Department and Veterans Administration have been under intense pressure from the state’s congressional delegation to wrap up the investigation.

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