10 deaths at VA hospital under investigation, one is ruled a homicide

Investigators are probing the deaths of about 10 patients at a Veterans Affairs hospital in West Virginia, with the death of one — a retired Vietnam vet — ruled a homicide.

Retired Army Sgt. Felix Kirk McDermott died in April last year at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia.

The cause was hypoglycemia, low blood sugar, brought on by the 82-year-old's having been injected with insulin in his abdomen, according to a $6 million wrongful death claim filed by McDermott's estate against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Insulin can be deadly if a patient does not suffer from diabetes — and McDermott was not diabetic, his family said.

The family says they were left in the dark after his death.

"Nobody at the medical center told his family about the sudden and unexplained hypoglycemia that caused his death," the claim says. Nor was the family told that nine or 10 other patients had suffered "similar unexplained deaths."

Not until about six months later, in October 2018, when the VA Office of the Inspector General had McDermott's remains exhumed for autopsy, did investigators tell the veteran's daughter "that there was evidence that nine or ten other patients" at the hospital had died after insulin's being injected into their abdomens, the claim says.

McDermott's daughter was told that her father was "one of the last known victims," the claim says.

The Armed Forces Medical Examiner ruled McDermott's death a homicide.

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"If the medical examiner's conclusion is correct, Felix Kirk McDermott was murdered while he was in the care and custody of the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center," the family's claim says.

A Department of Veterans Affairs representative said in a statement that there is an ongoing investigation of that medical center and that no "current" employees of the hospital are involved.

A spokesperson for the hospital said it is "cooperating fully with the inspector general’s ongoing investigation."

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, echoed the Veterans Affairs representative, saying he has been told that a "person of interest" in the matter "is no longer in any contact with" patients.

"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 said in a statement. "As a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee I will do everything in my power to investigate these accusations and get to the bottom of what happened."

The state's other senator, Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican, said in a statement: “This news is sickening and troubling."

"We will continue to stay on top of this, and I will do everything I can to make sure this is fully investigated," Capito said.

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