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VA hospital sued for medical malpractice over death of war veteran

The Veterans Administration operates hospitals across the country, including in New York. Recently, a medical malpractice suit was filed against a Veterans Administration Hospital in the death of an Iraqi war veteran.

The 32-year-old war veteran marched into Baghdad with Operation Iraqi Freedom. Trained as a medic, he was responding to a call to help soldiers in a downed helicopter when the vehicle in which he was riding was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade. He was returned to the U.S. partially disabled and was awarded a Bronze Star from the U.S. Army.

Last year, the injured soldier went to a VA hospital after falling in his home. VA doctors found he had fractured his right tibia and sent him home with crutches and pain medicine. A date for surgery had yet to be scheduled.

Several days later, he returned to the VA hospital with respiratory problems. He was given oxygen and sent home with more painkillers. Two days later, the veteran was found unresponsive in his home. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.

The man was also being treated by the VA for post-traumatic stress disorder and a brain injury. The lawsuit filed by his widow alleges that the VA did not monitor the drugs he was taking and that the VA failed in its duty to provide necessary, appropriate and reasonable medical care.

The soldier's death certificate indicates that he died as the result of mixed drug intoxication and a pulmonary emboli resulting from the leg fracture. He had been taking at least six different prescription drugs.

The initial lawsuit against the VA does not specify damages, but an additional wrongful death lawsuit filed in Federal Court against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is seeking a $5 million dollar settlement.

Source: Deseret News, "Widow of decorated Iraqi vet files wrongful death suit against VA hospital," Dennis Romboy, Aug. 19, 2011

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