Health

West Virginia VA under investigation after 10 patients died following unneeded insulin injections


Authorities are investigating the deaths of 10 patients – including one that was ruled  a homicide – at a Veterans Affairs hospital in West Virginia.

One of those patients was 82-year-old Felix ‘Kirk’ McDermott, an Army veteran suffering from dementia, who died in April 2018 at the Louis A Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg. 

A medical examiner performed an autopsy in February 2019 and determined McDermott’s cause of death was an insulin injection into his abdomen, which can kill someone who is a non-diabetic, reported USA TODAY.

In fact, all 10 patients received large and wrongful injections of insulin.

Investigators say they have identified a ‘person of interest’ but it is not clear if that person is or was a hospital employee. 

McDermott’s family filed an administrative wrongful death claim against the VA last week, which is a notice of an upcoming lawsuit, for $6million.

Authorities are investigating 10 deaths at the Louis A Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia including 82-year-old Felix 'Kirk' McDermott (pictured)

McDermott (pictured) died in April 2018 after he received an insulin injection even though he wasn't a diabetic

Authorities are investigating 10 deaths at the Louis A Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia including 82-year-old Felix ‘Kirk’ McDermott (left and right). He died in April 2018 after he received an insulin injection even though he wasn’t a diabetic 

McDermott's death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner. Pictured: Louis A Johnson VA Medical Center

McDermott’s death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner. Pictured: Louis A Johnson VA Medical Center

USA TODAY reported that, according to McDermott’s medical records, he didn’t have a history of diabetes.

According to the autopsy report, his blood sugar levels dropped dangerously low and he died several hours later. 

The medical examiner ruled his death a ‘homicide.’

McDermott’s daughter, Melanie Proctor, told USA TODAY that her father had several health issues including dementia, heart disease, hypertension and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

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He was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia three days before he died after accidentally aspirating food into his lungs.

After he passed away, Proctor said hospital staff made it seem as though his death was linked to his health problems.

She only learned that his death may not have been from natural causes after FBI agents visited her at home to discuss her father’s death. 

She gave the Veterans Affairs’ Office of Inspector General permission to exhume his body in October 2018, reported USA TODAY.

That’s when an autopsy, performed in February 2019, found an insulin injection site on McDermott’s left side.

If a non-diabetic receives an insulin injection, the excess insulin can cause the body to absorb too much sugar from the bloodstream, leading to dangerously low blood sugar levels that cause death. 

If a non-diabetic receives an overdose of insulin, like McDermott did, blood sugars can drop dangerously low. Pictured: McDermott, right, with his daughter, Melanie Proctor

If a non-diabetic receives an overdose of insulin, like McDermott did, blood sugars can drop dangerously low. Pictured: McDermott, right, with his daughter, Melanie Proctor 

McDermott's family filed an administrative wrongful death claim with the US Department of Veterans Affairs last week. Pictured: McDermott

They are seeking damages of $1million for personal injury and $5million for wrongful death. Pictured: McDermott with family

McDermott’s family filed an administrative wrongful death claim with the US Department of Veterans Affairs last week. They are seeking damages of $1million for personal injury and $5million for wrongful death. Pictured: McDermott, left, and with family, right

‘It’s just not right. I thought my dad was safe there,’ Proctor told USA TODAY. ‘I expected him to be taken care of, especially somebody with dementia that can’t talk for themselves.’

Law firm Tiano O’Dell, which is representing Proctor, filed an administrative wrongful death claim with the US Department of Veterans Affairs last week.

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According to the claim, nine or 10 patients died ‘as a result of unexplained severe low blood sugar’ after receiving a large injection of insulin in the abdomen that ‘was neither ordered by a doctor or medically necessary.’ 

The claim, which is a six-month notice of an upcoming lawsuit, is seeking damages of $1million for personal injury and $5million for wrongful death. 

The law firm did not immediately return DailyMail.com’s request for comment. 

Investigators say they have identified a 'person of interest' in the deaths, but did not specify if the person was a hospital employee. Pictured: McDermott

Investigators say they have identified a ‘person of interest’ in the deaths, but did not specify if the person was a hospital employee. Pictured: McDermott

The news reached the office of West Virginia US Senator Joe Manchin, who said he spoke to Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie and the VA hospital’s director, Dr Glenn Snider.

‘I was…assured by both Secretary Wilkie and Dr Snider that the person of interest is no longer in any contact with veterans at the VA facility,’ Manchin said in a statement on Monday.

‘These crimes shock the conscience, and I’m still appalled they were not only committed, but that our veterans, who have sacrificed so much for our country, were the victims.’

Proctor told USA TODAY her dad was living at the VA nursing home on the VA medical center’s campus before he was admitted to the hospital.

McDermott retied from the US Army as a sergeant major after 20 years of service, some of which was spent in Vietnam. After retiring, he served with the Pennsylvania National Guard.  

He loved eating chocolate and was described as having a ‘wicked sense of humor’.

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Proctor said she hopes the lawsuit leads to large-scale reform of Veterans Affairs. 

‘I don’t know what happened to set this chain off, so I can’t even say what needs to be improved upon at this point,’ she told the newspaper. ‘[But] it shouldn’t happen to any other families.’ 



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