CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An autopsy report for a Vietnam veteran who died suspiciously at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center concludes that the man — who was not diabetic — was injected with a fatal amount of insulin.
The autopsy uses clinical language to describe horror.
“This case represents the administration of unprescribed insulin to a non-hyperglycemic, non-diabetic patient in a hospital setting,” the report states.
“Based on the investigative and autopsy findings, the manner of death is homicide.”
The death of 82-year-old retired U.S. Army Sgt. Felix McDermott is drawing attention from the public, as well as West Virginia’s congressional delegation, including senators Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin.
Manchin said he spoke today with leaders with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as leadership at the VA hospital in Clarksburg.
A statement put out by Manchin’s office made reference to a total of 11 suspicious deaths at the VA hospital.
“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,” Manchin stated.
McDermott’s family has filed a claim over his death with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
McDermott’s family was told by VA investigators that nine or ten additional patients of the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center had been given fatal injections of insulin, according to the claim.
“We don’t know whether this is just an unbelievably incompetent person, which is hard to believe, or if someone is doing this willfully to people who have served our country,” said Tony O’Dell, a Charleston lawyer who is representing McDermott’s family.
McDermott was a Vietnam veteran who retired after 20 years of U.S. Army Service. He later served as a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard.
He was admitted for treatment at the VA Medical Center in Clarksburg on April 9, 2018 because he had choked on some food and developed aspiration pneumonia.
At first, his health improved.
Then, on April 9, 2018, his condition plummeted. He couldn’t catch his breath. A fingerstick blood glucose test showed that he had critically low blood sugar.
The situation was so critical that his family was called in.
“All of a sudden they’re called in the early morning hours. He’s taken this sudden turn for the worse,” O’Dell said on MetroNews’ “Talkline.
By 9 a.m., McDermott was dead.
“Really, no answers were given to the family at all. They really were just left in the dark. He took a sudden turn. They didn’t know what to think. They were surprised.”
McDermott was buried on April 13, 2018.
The family grieved as time passed. After a few months, the family was asked for permission to exhume McDermott’s body.
The exhumation occurred Oct. 23, 2018, and McDermott’s remains were sent to the Dover Air Force Base for autopsy.
The resulting autopsy report confirmed that McDermott was not diabetic and had no history of oral hypoglycemic use or previous insulin administration. The autopsy report also confirmed there were no hospital orders for the administration of insulin.
Yet, the autopsy identified a subcutaneous insulin injection site on the left side of his abdomen.
The report concluded that McDermott “died of exogenous insulin administration.”
“If the medical examiner’s conclusion is correct,” the family’s claim against the VA states, “Felix Kirk McDermott was murdered while he was in the care and custody of the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center despite the VAMC being on notice of previous wrongful injections.”
Wesley Walls, who leads public affairs and community relations services at the medical facility, told MetroNews on Monday the allegations do not involve any current employees.
“Immediately upon discovering these serious allegations, Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center leadership brought them to the attention of VA’s inspector general while putting safeguards in place to ensure the safety of each and every one of our patients,” he said.
Walls added Manchin’s office was made aware of the allegations on Aug. 7, 2018, as were Capito’s office and the staff of Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va.
“VA is cooperating fully with the inspector general’s ongoing investigation, and for additional questions we refer you to them,” he concluded.
Manchin, who had spoken today with officials, said the investigation has identified a suspect. Manchin said that person was “removed immediately from any patient care.”
“I did find out – the hospital did everything they could do when they found the person of suspicion,” Manchin said on MetroNews’ “Talkline.” “They have secured and feel confident everything in the world is done for their patients.”
He added, “There has been concern that they’re looking into all the patients that person might have been in contact with.”
Manchin expressed disappointment that the public just learned of the situation even though McDermott’s death was a year ago.
“It’s very upsetting that it has taken this long for us to have gotten any kind of news,” Manchin said.
The claim by McDermott’s family does not conclude whether the insulin injection was negligence or intentional.
O’Dell, the attorney, says the family is experiencing “total betrayal.”
“Put yourself in that position where it’s your father and someone may have purposefully killed that person,” he said.