The stories are strikingly similar.
An aging veteran checks into the Louis A. Johnson Veterans Hospital in Clarksburg. He has some health problems, but he is not dying.
Suddenly, he takes a dramatic turn for the worse. His blood sugar levels drop dangerously low triggering hypoglycemia. Despite treatment, within a few days or possibly a few weeks, the patient dies.
Family members are not only shocked, but also bewildered as to why their loved one’s health declined so precipitously. They grieve, bury their loved one, but are left with a nagging feeling that something must have gone terribly wrong.
Months later, investigators from the Veterans Administration Office of Inspector General show up at the door, telling the family as many as ten deaths at the hospital are “suspicious” and they are investigating to see if someone at the VA hospital may have killed them.
We heard almost the exact same story on Talkline yesterday from attorney Dino Colombo, who is representing the estate of the late Archie D. Edgell. He was admitted to the VA hospital in Clarksburg in March 2018 for treatment as he prepared to enter the VA nursing home. Edgell, 85, died three days later.
Edgell had dementia and was diabetic, but Colombo said his blood sugar had not risen to the level of requiring insulin. Months later, his body was exhumed and an autopsy was performed at Dover Air Force Base. The conclusion: “These findings are strongly suspicious for unprescribed insulin administered during hospitalization.”
Veterans Felix McDermott and George Shaw died at the same VA hospital around the same time. Neither was diabetic and military autopsies show they died from unprescribed doses of insulin. Shaw and Edgell were injected in similar locations on their bodies.
Veteran John Hallman, 87, died at the VA hospital in June 2018. USA Today reports investigators showed family members medical records showing “how the level of insulin in Hallman’s blood had spiked before he died.”
Hallman, Edgell, McDermott and Shaw were all patients in unit 3A of the hospital. All had health problems common among the elderly, but they were not at death’s door. Colombo said of Edgell, “He wasn’t dying. He wasn’t even close to dying.”
Publicly and privately there is chatter about a “person of interest,” an individual who the hospital said has been “removed from their position in Clarksburg,” but has not yet been identified. Colombo won’t speculate on motive, but says, “I think we’re going to find out this was a sinister plan.”
The pieces are coming into place with what we have learned about the case. Clearly, federal investigators know much more and are ensuring a thorough investigation before they bring charges.
The relatives of Mr. Shaw who I spoke with have confidence in the investigation and they believe there will be a reckoning. Hopefully that will give the grieving families some peace and provide these veterans the sanctity of their eternal rest.