CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A woman is suing the federal government over the 2018 death of her father from a wrongful insulin injection at a West Virginia veterans hospital.
Melanie Proctor filed the lawsuit Monday against Veteran Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie. It details a “widespread system of failures” at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg that led to the death of her father, former Army Sgt. Felix Kirk McDermott.
Federal prosecutors have said they are probing the deaths of up to 11 patients at the hospital.
Proctor's lawsuit said McDermott, 82, was admitted to to the hospital for shortness of breath and concern for food aspiration pneumonia on April 6, 2018. He was placed on antibiotics. He had no medical history of diabetes and there was no order for insulin to be administered to him.
On April 9, McDermott was found restless and in pain, and a test revealed he had severe hypoglycemia. He died later that day. The lawsuit said McDermott's body was not referred to a state medical examiner for an autopsy.
An autopsy performed more than six months later at an air base in Dover, Delaware, determined McDermott had received an insulin injection and his death was ruled a homicide, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, alleges an unnamed employee who administered the injection was not qualified to be a nursing assistant and that hospital staff failed to take appropriate action to stop the employee from giving the shots.
Clarksburg VA hospital spokesman Wesley Walls declined comment on the lawsuit. He said the hospital discovered the allegations and “fired the individual at the center of them.”
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has said the VA inspector general told his office about the opening of a medical and criminal investigation of the hospital in July 2018, after at least nine patients were diagnosed with unexplained low blood sugar.
Walls said “justice is now dependent on the independent IG's investigation."
Proctor's lawsuit said at least four other veterans died at the hospital in the two months following McDermott's death, including two the next day.
An attorney representing the family of George Nelson Shaw Sr., an 81-year-old retired member of the Air Force, has said he died at the hospital in April 2018 from a wrongful insulin injection.
The VA is the government’s second-largest department, responsible for 9 million military veterans.