The family of a Marine veteran filed a medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit against the U.S. in federal court on August 29, 2016, alleging that the Tomah, Wisconsin VA Medical Center’s treatment of the 35-year-old veteran of the Marine Corps was negligent, that the veteran’s mental health and substance abuse issues were misdiagnosed and improperly treated, and that the VA improperly prescribed and administered numerous opioids and other medications that led to his death in 2014. The family’s VA medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit further alleges that the VA failed to timely and properly respond when the veteran was found unresponsive.
The federal medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit, which was filed pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act that mandates that the U.S. be named as the defendant, was filed by the veteran’s wife on her own behalf and on behalf of their daughter. The medical malpractice lawsuit alleges that a physician at the VA had improperly prescribed the veteran Suboxone to treat his chronic pain, migraines, and to address his anxiety. Suboxone is normally prescribed to treat opioid addiction and the physician’s use of the drug to treat the veteran’s pain and anxiety issues were off-label uses of the drug, which the family’s wrongful death lawsuit alleges were not explained or consented to by the veteran. The federal tort claim lawsuit also alleges that the veteran’s dosage of Subxone was too high and that it interacted with other medications that he was taking.
The Alleged Facts
On August 30, 2014, the veteran’s family visited him in the VA Medical Center at which time his father was concerned that his son was overly sedated to the point where he could hardly talk. A few hours later, at 2:45 a.m., a nurse at the VA facility found the veteran unresponsive in his room but no one started CPR for ten minutes and emergency responders did not arrive at the veteran’s room for twenty minutes.
After the veteran’s death, the VA Inspector General conducted an investigation into the veteran’s death and issued its report on August 6, 2015 in which the VA facility was cited for deficiencies that led to the veteran’s death, including the failure to determine if the veteran had a heartbeat, the failure to immediately initiate life-saving measures, and the failure to use a portable defibrillator. The Inspector General’s report also faulted the VA medical center for its failure to have on hand medications that are used to treat an accidental overdose. One physician who was involved with the veteran’s care was terminated from his employment with the VA. It was determined that the veteran died as a result of mixed drug toxicity while in the VA hospital’s short-stay mental health unit where he had been administered thirteen medications during a 24-hour period, several of which can cause respiratory depression.
A report by the Center for Investigative Reporting that was released in January 2015 faulted the Tomah VA Medical Center for a fourteen-fold increase in the number of prescribed oxycodone pills, from 50,000 in 2004 to 712,000 in 2012.
If you or a loved one received medical care through the VA that was negligent, or the VA negligently failed to provide necessary medical care in a timely fashion, you should promptly find a local medical malpractice lawyer in your U.S. state who handles VA medical malpractice claims who may investigate your VA medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice claim involving the VA pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act, if appropriate.
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