Attorney: Lawsuit planned over VA hospital death in WVa

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — An attorney representing the family of a patient who died at a Veterans Affairs hospital in West Virginia says he plans to sue over what he believes is the man’s suspicious death from a wrongful insulin injection.

Charleston attorney Tony O’Dell said a notice of a pending lawsuit was filed this week with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in the death of John William Hallman. The 87-year-old Navy veteran died at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg last year.

The notice said Hallman was given a shot of insulin “he did not need and for which no medical order was placed.” It said the shot caused his blood sugar to spike, leading to his death.

The Exponent Telegram of Clarksburg first reported the notice.

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The notice said Hallman’s death “is considered a homicide based upon the pattern of events leading to his death, although his body is not available for autopsy.”

Federal prosecutors are probing the deaths of up to 11 patients. Attorneys representing the families of men who died say at least two of the deaths have been ruled homicides, with both veterans dying from wrongful insulin injections.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has said he spoke directly with Attorney General William Barr about the deaths and told Barr in a letter that he has “grave concerns over the pace of the investigation.”

The Democrat said VA officials had told him a “person of interest” was no longer in contact with any veterans at the facility. The VA inspector general told Manchin’s office about the opening of a medical and criminal investigation of the hospital in July 2018, after at least nine patients were diagnosed with unexplained low blood sugar, the senator said.

O’Dell’s notice also mentions a “person of interest” who was hired as a certified nursing assistant and was working at the time of Hallman’s death. The notice said the assistant had “documented involvement during the hospitalization while critically low levels of glucose were recorded.” The notice doesn’t name that worker.

In the deaths that attorneys said have been ruled homicides, 82-year-old former Army Sgt. Felix Kirk McDermott was wrongly injected with a fatal dose of insulin at the hospital in April 2018, according to a notice of a pending lawsuit. An attorney representing the family of George Nelson Shaw Sr., an 81-year-old retired member of the Air Force, said he too had died at the hospital in April 2018 from a wrongful insulin injection.

Bill Powell, the U.S. attorney in West Virginia, has said the investigation is a “top priority.”

The VA is the government’s second-largest department, responsible for 9 million military veterans.

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