CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – The family of 81-year-old Air Force veteran George Shaw, whose death while at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg was ruled a homicide in August, has filed a notice of claim regarding his death.
The claim document states that Shaw was given an injection of insulin that was not necessary and was not ordered for him, causing him to develop severe hypoglycemia, which caused his death.
After a 28-year military career in the U.S. Air Force, Shaw retired before becoming an employee at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center for eight years. Shaw was admitted to the VA Medical Center on March 22, 2018, according to the claim. The claim states Shaw was examined and subsequently admitted. His health improved over the next couple of days, according to the claim.
The claim then states that on March 26, 2018, Shaw experienced an episode of hypoglycemia (very low blood sugar), in which his glucose levels ranged from 17-40 mg/dL. According to the claim, Shaw’s blood sugar level was so low that medical efforts to raise his blood sugar level back to normal were unsuccessful. Shaw’s condition significantly deteriorated, and his family repeatedly asked why his health was declining so rapidly.
On March 28, 2018, Shaw was discharged from the VA Medical Center and sent to River Oaks nursing home, before the nursing home sent him back to be readmitted to the hospital on April 4. The claim then states that on April 5, Shaw was placed on comfort care measures at the VA. Shaw then died a painful death from severe hypoglycemia at roughly 8:23 a.m. on April 10, according to notice of claim.
According to the claim, employees of the VA never told Shaw’s family about the unexplained diagnosis of hypoglycemia. The family then requested an autopsy on April 11, which stated his cause of death was determined to be congestive heart failure, the claim said.
The claim states that Shaw did not suffer from diabetes and had never been diagnosed with diabetes, nor did he have a history of ever taking oral medication or insulin injections for diabetes. The claim also states that there was no need for Shaw to receive or take insulin, and there were no physician orders for insulin during Shaw’s stay at the VA Medical Center.
The claim states that in addition to Shaw, 9 or 10 other patients at the VA Medical Center had suffered similar unexplained deaths because of sudden onset of unexplained medical conditions. The death of Ret. Sgt. Felix Kirk McDermott has also been confirmed as a homicide.
The claim states that months later, VA investigators and the FBI contacted Shaw’s wife and advised her of the evidence that the deaths of her husband and 9-10 others may have caused by being wrongfully injected with insulin.
The claim stated that Shaw’s autopsy confirmed that he had received unprescribed exogenous insulin injections in four areas of his body. The autopsy also confirmed that Shaw was not a diabetic and had no history of oral hypoglycemic use or previous insulin administration. The autopsy report also stated that there were no hospital orders for the administration of insulin. Following the investigation, the Armed Forces Medical Examiner ruled Shaw’s death as a homicide.
The claim states that the VA Medical Center had a special relationship with its veteran patients that created an affirmative duty to protect those patients from reasonable foreseeable harm. Therefore, the claim also states that West Virginia law also requires caregivers, such as the VA Medical Center, who accept responsibility for the care of incapacitated elderly people, to protect them from harm.
The claim states that the VA Medical Center breached affirmative action duty and was negligent in the following ways:
- by failing to thoroughly investigate each of the suspicious deaths and discover the cause of those deaths which resulted from the unwarranted injection of insulin by the unidentified person
- by failing to alert Shaw or his family that multiple other VA Medical Center patients at the Louis A. Johnson Veteran’s Administration Medical Center had died suspiciously
- by failing to adequately staff its medical center
- by failing to designate each of the other 10 deaths as sentinel events despite each of those deaths meeting the criteria to be designated as a sentinel event, and by failing to identify, report and investigate each sentinel event as required by the standard of care
- by failing to initiate a root cause analysis after each of the 10 deaths in order to prevent additional deaths and reduce the potential for patient harm
- by failing to have proper reconciliation of medications, including insulin
- by failing to have proper oversight by senior VA Medical Center management staff
- by failing to warn Shaw and his family of other deaths
The claim states that as a direct and proximate result of deviations from the appropriate standards of medical care which caused Shaw’s injuries and wrongful death, his statutory beneficiaries are entitled to all non-economic and economic damages allowed under West Virginia law, including sorrow, mental anguish, and solace which may include society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices and advice of the decedent; pain and suffering; mental anguish; funeral costs of $6,561.47; and loss of income to Shaw’s Estate of $3,904.29 per month throughout the remainder of his natural life.