A Harrison County woman alleges her husband was one of at least 12 veterans who died in a string of unexpected patient deaths at Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg from July 2017 to June 2018.
Retired Air Force Senior Master Sgt. George Nelson Shaw Sr. died on April 10, 2018, just 19 days after he was first admitted to the Clarksburg VAMC, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court. A hospital doctor initially ruled Shaw’s cause of death to be heart disease and advanced dementia.
Nine months after his death, Shaw’s body was disinterred and autopsied. The medical examiner found four injection areas on his arms and thigh and ruled his death a homicide.
This is the second lawsuit filed regarding the string of unexpected veteran deaths at the facility. Retired Army Sgt. Felix “Kirk” McDermott died at the Clarksburg VAMC just one day before Shaw with similar injection marks on his body.
Tony O’Dell, a lawyer representing both the McDermott and Shaw families, said the Clarksburg VAMC violated “policy after policy” by not reporting the pattern of unexpected patient deaths, all of which happened on the same floor of the facility.
Shaw, a 28-year Air Force veteran, was admitted to the Clarksburg VAMC for a variety of conditions on March 22, 2018, according to the lawsuit. While making discharge plans just three days later, Shaw fell in the hospital and a sitter was ordered to watch over him.
The next morning hospital staffers found Shaw, who worked as an employee at the Clarksburg VAMC for eight years, with low oxygen levels and an elevated heart rate, according to the lawsuit. Further testing showed severely high blood sugar levels, even though Shaw had never been diagnosed with diabetes or undergone insulin therapy.
Shaw never recovered. He was admitted into hospice care and later discharged to a nursing home. He deteriorated further and died soon after at the Clarksburg VAMC, according to the suit.
Hospital administrators discussed the unexplained deaths long before they acted on them, the lawsuit claims, and it wasn’t until two more patients died after Shaw that the Clarksburg VAMC reported them to the watchdog arm of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Systemic failures by the department allowed these deaths to go unnoticed, O’Dell said.
The Washington Post reported in February that grand jury proceedings were underway in the case, and investigators suspect a female nurse was injecting nonprescribed patients with insulin. There’s been no update to the case since, however, and the victims’ families are still waiting on any kind of update from investigators, O’Dell said.
“The families are being kept in the dark, they don’t know what’s going on, and they would very much like to see justice get done,” O’Dell said. “I do believe that the VA is very aware of the system failures at this hospital, and they should be coming forward to make it right as much as they can with these families.”
The lawsuit was filed in the Northern District of West Virginia.