The alarming and highly suspicious deaths of 11 or more aging veterans at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg will finally come before a Congressional committee today.  The House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will convene at 2 p.m. for a hearing entitled: “Broken Promises: Assessing VA’s Systems for Protecting Veterans from Clinical Harm.”

However, don’t expect any earth-shattering revelations. A spokesperson for Chairman Chris Pappas (D-New Hampshire) said the Clarksburg VA hospital deaths will be discussed, but the committee does not want to probe too deeply at this point and interfere with the investigation.

Meanwhile, details about the deaths continue to emerge.

Archie Edgell

Dino Colombo, attorney for deceased Army veteran Archie Edgell, said he has notified the federal government of the intent to sue.   The military autopsy on Edgell said his cause of death was “undetermined.”  However, the report also said the findings were “strongly suspicious” because of unprescribed insulin administered during his hospitalization in 2018.

Edgell and fellow veterans Felix McDermott, George Shaw, John Hallman and William Holloway all died under nearly identical circumstances on unit 3A. The number of suspicious deaths between 2017 and 2018 may be eleven or more, and three are confirmed homicides.

The Washington Post reported earlier this week that the “person of interest” in the investigation, is “a woman who worked the overnight shift as a nursing assistant and left last year.”

The Post also reported that the paper “is not using the woman’s name because she has not been charged.  Through her son, she declined to speak to a reporter who visited her home outside Clarksburg.”

Many of the families of the victims have hired attorneys with the intent of filing lawsuits.  However, it is not easy to sue the federal government.  Dino Colombo pointed out that by law the federal government cannot be held liable for the negligent actions of its employees.  Instead, the families will have to show that the VA hospital failed to follow its own procedures

Colombo argues the hospital did not properly secure insulin.  USA Today reported this week, “Yet on Unit 3A, insulin was left unsecured on hallway medication carts, according to two hospital employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.”

Colombo alleges that failure gave the assailant opportunity.  “They put the gun in the person’s hand,” he said.  A hospital spokesman told USA Today the hospital did properly secure insulin.  He added that insulin can be purchased over the counter without a prescription.

Colombo also argues that the hospital was slow to recognize what was happening. “They failed to connect the dots,” he said.  “They committed medical negligence and deviated from the standard of care.”

Meanwhile, the Office of the Inspector General of the VA, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of West Virginia continue the criminal investigation.  No charges have been filed yet.

 

 

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