Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Law Blog

Claims of Malpractice Over Veteran Deaths at VA Hospital

Posted by Briggs Bedigian | Nov 03, 2020 | 0 Comments

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides medical care for veterans who have served in the U.S. military. After discharge or retirement from the military, the VA continues to provide care for injuries that happened during military services and other health conditions unrelated to service. Unfortunately, military veterans may face similar problems with negligent care or malpractice that civilians have to deal with in local hospitals. 

Insulin Deaths in VA Facilities

Over the past few years, there have been a number of suspicious deaths for veterans in VA facilities. On April 10, 2018, an Air Force veteran, 82-year-old George Nelson Shaw, was admitted to the VA hospital in Clarksburg, West Virginia for possible dehydration. He began to feel better and was soon to be discharged when his blood sugar suddenly crashed. Shaw never recovered and later died

When Shaw's family inquired, seeing as how he'd never had an issue with his blood sugar before, the medical center claimed Shaw had died of natural causes. However, months later, Shaw's wife was notified by the FBI that the death was suspicious, there were other similar deaths, and there was an investigation underway. 

Felix McDermott was another veteran who went to the VA Medical Center in Clarksburg. The 81-year-old was admitted to the hospital after developing pneumonia from aspirating some food. He began to improve when he suddenly developed breathing problems. His blood sugar had dropped to dangerous levels when it was normal a few days earlier. McDermott later died. 

McDermott's family was also later contacted by the FBI. According to the family, investigators were looking at 9 or 10 other suspicious veterans' deaths. A nursing assistant pleaded guilty to 7 counts of murder for the deaths. Reta Mays was working as a nursing assistant on the night shift at the VA center. Although nursing assistants are generally not qualified to administer medications to patients, Mays admitted to using insulin injections to intentionally cause death.

Some Settlements for Victims' Families

If the deaths were caused by intentional actions by someone who was intentionally acting to harm or kill veterans, the hospitals could still be liable for negligent hiring of the person who caused the injury, negligent supervision by failing to properly supervise the employee, or negligence by allowing an unauthorized person access to patients or medical supplies. 

The families of 6 of the military veterans who died under suspicious circumstances at the VA medical center in Clarksburg have reached tentative settlements with the government. The settlement amounts range from about $700,000 to $957,000. The amounts may be subject to caps for non-economic damages in West Virginia.  

Medical Negligence for Failure to Monitor or Supervise

Patients can be in very vulnerable positions while in the hospital. Patients may be asleep or sedated and have no idea who is coming in or out of their hospital room. Patients may have no idea what a nurse or PA is injecting into their IVs. Hospitals should take patient privacy and protection very seriously to avoid any injury or harm. 

If you suffered an injury while under hospital care, speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. To discuss your case with a member of our legal team, fill out an online case evaluation form or call (800) 529-6162 today. 

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm's litigation practice.  Briggs' legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 

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