Details about the grotesque scandal at the Louis A. Johnson Veterans Hospital in Clarksburg have emerged in dribs and drabs. Here’s a refresher on what we know:
—The U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI and the VA Office of the Inspector General are all continuing to investigate the suspicious deaths of at least ten veterans at the hospital.
—There is a pattern in the deaths: severe cases of medically unexplained hypoglycemia that in some instances have been specifically linked by autopsy results to doses of insulin that were not prescribed.
—Investigators have a person of interest, a nursing assistant who worked in Unit 3A where the patients were treated. The hospital has fired her, but no charges have been filed.
—Six of the victims have been identified by MetroNews and other media. They are Russ Posey, William Alfred Holloway, Felix Kirk McDermott, George Nelson Shaw, Archie Edgell and John Hallman.
Charleston attorney Tony O’Dell is representing the families of many of the victims and through him we have learned a few new bits of information.
We now have some some details about a seventh victim. The family does not want his name released, so we will call him “Patient 7.” This 89-year-old West Virginia veteran died in January, 2018, after a brief stay at the VA hospital.
Notably, one day before his death, Patient 7, who was not diabetic, had a sudden and dramatic drop in blood glucose to a dangerously low level.
This patient was also being treated on floor 3A of the hospital, where all the other patients who died were in rooms and where the “person of interest” worked an overnight shift.
The original cause of death for Patient 7 was listed as a bleeding stroke. When suspicions surrounding his death arose, his body was exhumed and an autopsy was performed last September.
The medical examiner ruled the cause of death as “undetermined.” However, the doctor pointed a damning finger at the sudden drop in glucose. “The pattern of this hypoglycemic event is similar to additional cases… seen at this same hospital during the same time period.”
The doctor also specifically ruled out any medical cause for the drop in blood sugar.
Meanwhile, John Hallman’s death was originally attributed to an inflammation of the lung tissue due to inhaling food and/or vomit. However, O’Dell says because of the investigation the death certificate has now been changed to list “unexplained hypoglycemia” as the cause.
Hallman was cremated so investigators could not order an autopsy. However, the updated cause of death now more directly links Hallman to the other victims.
The investigation into the deaths has been going on for over a year-and-a-half, and O’Dell tells me some of the families are becoming impatient. Clearly there were system failures at the hospital that allowed these deaths to go on for months, and those need to be brought to light.
The hospital eventually alerted the VA’s Office of Inspector General, but had families of the victims not come forward, the public and veterans who use the hospital would probably still be in the dark.
As the pieces of this puzzle continue to emerge it becomes increasingly evident that these veterans were all victims of cruel and heinous acts. They will not have the sanctity of their eternal rest until there is justice for them and their families.