Veterans Affairs agreed to pay $2.5 million for one veteran’s death that likely resulted from the agency’s failure to diagnose blood poising after treating his ulcerative colitis with azathioprine for 9 months.

Aaron Merritt, a three-tour Iraq & Afghanistan War veteran, died from blood poising following a course of treatment to address ulcerative colitis with azathioprine. The 26-year-old veteran’s immediate cause of death was acid content in the blood.

How did this happen? The Army successfully treated the veteran on one treatment course.

Basically, VA failed to follow the recommendations of a drug manufacturer to conduct basic blood work to avoid blood poisoning.

In the military, Merritt developed colitis. The Army treated him with mesalamine. In May 2014, VA started treating him with azathioprine to address the inflammation from colitis. The veteran died nine months later in the emergency room.

Why did VA switch the treatment course? Were there signs that could have saved Merritt if promptly acted on?

Prelude To Wrongful Death

Shortly before admission for the ER, Merritt emailed his VA doctor about his symptoms including difficulty eating and flare-ups.

“I’m also finding it difficult to keep food and water down,” he wrote. “I was wondering if this was something I should be seen for or if I could get new medications to treat this or improve my quality of life.”

Merritt’s red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets were destroyed by the acid in his blood.

While azathioprine is used as an anti-inflammatory, it also suppresses the immune system. The drug manufacturer recommends regular blood work to ensure the blood is not poisoned. VA failed to conduct the blood work, and it did not timely recognize the veteran experienced a life-threatening infection from bone marrow suppression.

“Aaron coded four times,” court records state, referring to the number of times his heart or breathing stopped that morning. “During the fourth code, his body could no longer fight the overwhelming infection.”

While the settlement does not admit fault, a little common sense goes a long way. Merritt would be alive but for the malpractice of VA medical doctors.

What Is Ulcerative Colitis?

According to WebMD, Ulcerative Colitis (UC) is a type of inflammatory bowel disease. There is no cure, and flare-ups frequently occur for the life of the individual.

The disease affects a person’s large intestine or colon. Inflammation resultant from the immune disease usually leads to sores in the lining of the intestine.

It occurs when the immune system attacks food, good gut bacteria, and cells that line the colon by mistake. Certain types of food and stress can trigger flare-ups, but the actual cause of the disease is unknown.

Boxed Warning For Azathioprine

Drug.com provides the following “boxed warning” of azathioprine for those readers taking this course of treatment:

Chronic immunosuppression with Azathioprine, a purine antimetabolite increases risk of malignancy in humans. Reports of malignancy include post-transplant lymphoma and hepatosplenic T-cell lymphoma (HSTCL) in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Physicians using this drug should be very familiar with this risk as well as with the mutagenic potential to both men and women and with possible hematologic toxicities. Physicians should inform patients of the risk of malignancy with Azathioprine. See WARNINGS.

Bone marrow suppression, which is similar to or the same as what Merritt experienced, is a known complication where the required treatment is dosage reduction.

Takeaway

Imagine what would have happened if VA doctors simply followed the recommendation of the manufacturer and conducted the bloodwork? How frequently do VA doctors and residents cut corners due to laziness or to save a buck?

As an attorney, I hear of and see cases like this frequently. Veterans are the unfortunate recipient of many auto-immune disorders that have onset during or shortly after service. VA still struggles to treat these conditions without endangering the lives of veterans by failing to conduct timely bloodwork.

Think Congress or anyone else will take notice?

Source: https://www.stripes.com/news/army-veteran-s-family-agrees-to-2-5-million-in-settlement-with-va-over-wrongful-death-suit-1.555547

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21 COMMENTS

  1. Oh, Congress and other varmints at those federal and state levels know damn well what is going on, and has been that way for generations. So does big Pharma, medical boards, lying covering-up media, PR firms, those medical colleges and researchers getting big bucks for little to nothing. It’s the sheep, cheerleaders, yes people, censors, the un-caring public are the major ones who need to start taking more notice. Those comfy in their hog swallow unaffected notice but don’t care a bit… typical and common. All the allowables, intentional/known harms, to continued suffering, the same possible root causes, the so-called “unknowns” (cop-outs) is proof of that too.

    Damn odd homeopathy, natural medicines, alternatives are cuss words to the VA and mainstream trained medical people. If something works and not found in the grand VA formulary or approved treatments according to their restrictive side-stepping methods, tough stuff, suffer and die, easy to ignore you suffering vets. They just love to blood test for dope though, other needs not so much. The circus continues as this couple hopes like countless others that their loss may change things or bring awareness? This one story, again like others gets a little spot-lighting while millions more go un-noticed, under reported or cared for.

    One down for the secretive body counts. Actual counts are?

  2. I got off most of the crap the VA was feeding me and went the herbal way. I would be a piece of drooling toast by now if I didn’t. We have a cabinet full of herbs that my wife and I use for just about everything. Oxy and Gaba would have killed me by now. I’ll stick with my Cannabis and Kratom.

    • Good for you Dude, I did the same thing a few years ago got off all of the pain meds cause just researching the side effects of that garbage, I knew I didn’t want to deal with down the Road. It’s Sooo unfortunate to hear about this Young man and Any Vet/Person getting Misdiagnosed by staff anywhere which happens a few thousand times a day. But, I tell those who can Look for the Alternative and Use the Shit and Don’t expect Results Right away and soon you will feel 110% better.

  3. Another case where Drs didn’t follow BASIC guidelines when prescribing a medication. Our Brother, Aaron Merritt, died due to the simplest form of malpractice. Sloppy and disgusting.

    PRECISION BASED MEDICINE MY HAIRY DINKLE-BERRIED ASS.

  4. how do you think these sort of things would change if the VA and it’s clinicians were simply allowed to be sued directly in the courts for malpractice, rather than having to go through the current convoluted VA process first?

    • That would be a good start. Not only doctor’s. The employees who make mistakes ? When denying veterans disability claims.

      Those who over pay veterans by mistake ?.

      Should be fired and or made to pay the money back from their own pay.

      They would get the message if they had to pay back the money or fired.

      To include their supervisor’s !

  5. The family did not ask for enough damages under the Federal Torts Claims Act. The family should not have accepted 2.5 million dollars but should have pushed for more. Additionally, the family should go after the licenses of all doctors and health care providers involved in their sons case and treatment.

    There is a larger question – what rights does a veteran have when treated at a VA facility? Can he/she ask for a second opinion? Can he/she request blood tests? Can he/she request that he/she be seen by a civilian doctor to confirm diagnoses and treatment? Can he/she demand that he/she be seen/treated by a group of doctors and not nurses regardless of the costs to VA? Basically, the VA needs to pass a “bill of rights” for veteran’s treatment.

    • I am having stomach problems, which I believe are adhesions from a prior surgery.

      Went to the va and the first thing they ordered is a Colon oscupsy. Up you butt !

      I questioned why they right away want to get invasive.

      I showed the provider upper GI, barium swallow and x Ray’s first test to be done to see if there is a blockage.

      Reply, well they don’t show disease, so once again up my Ass.

      I have had blocked bowel before and this was not the way they tested in the private sector.

      Veterans have to be very careful, when they question the provider or nurse. They get very defensive and can and will report these veterans as being disruptive and then they screw you up.

      Then the va will treat you like a criminal and the veterans can do nothing about it !

  6. Money isn’t enough. Criminal prosecution needs to take place.

    The money given will not replace this young man – who died in the prime of his life…and sure doesn’t even hurt the VA – because us, the taxpayers, are footing the bill. So, awarding money in a settlement is no incentive for change at the VA.

    The VA has and continue to hire doctors who have issues in one way or another. The VA wants to send us to nurse practitioners.

    I just went for a C&P exam where the clerk/assistant asked me if I took my high blood pressure today and when I asked her why should/would I have to take my own pressure, she hissed and was like ‘Ok, I’ll take your pressure, go sit at that table’.

    I am tired of being seen by unqualified people who could care less about my or other veterans’ care…all they want is to make a paycheck and push you through the VA’s broken system.

    Get rid of the VA and let us choose our own doctors. The doctors/health industry will have an incentive to compete for veterans business and with the threat/cost of malpractice suits, they probably will be more attentive to properly treat and/or diagnose vetereans.

    Actually, yes, probably our lawmakers and the VA actually are taking notice and are like ‘Yippee, another one bites the dust!!!’, ‘One more veteran we can remove from our budget…keep up the good work and issue out bonuses for every VA official involved in that young veteran’s death’

  7. Every time you get a ‘new’ doctor at the clinic, first thing they do is change your medication. Its a bad practice & needs to be stopped.

  8. The VA set me up with an immunosuppresant and I know it’s allowing mobility with minimal pain. Herbals and cannabis products only offered pain relief and a buzz. CBDs absent the THC turned out to be expensive urine. Contrary to popular belief staying high all day is not pleasant, nor productive. If I wanted to be a couch potato, I would have joined the Air Force …. ohhh – GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAALL GOOOOOOOOOOOAL….

    • What ever your taking and it works,good. If you don’t know how to use cannabis correctly, then don’t. Just because you use cannabis doesn’t mean your a couch potato. I don’t know what your taking but I’m pretty sure it has side effects. Educate yourself a little bit. You just don’t have to buy the shit ya know.

    • STOP…….trying to blow “wind” up everybody’s skirt here, guy.

      You can tell a cannabis shop employee helping you, what level of effect you want. They can advise you to a product with CBD/THC levels adjusted to your specific needs……..just as good as you can tell a waiter how much salt to put on your mashed potatoes. So if you can’t explain how to do THAT well, then you’re just stoopid.

      Yes, there’s flower/smokable stuff. But there are edibles, tinctures, patches, creams, sodas, vaporizers (no smoke for lungs) etc, so for you to say staying high all day is your only option for CBD/THC treatment is shytFROM-DAbull.
      Puh-leese.
      A “popular belief?” lol ok.

  9. I also believe that VA Drs. get sloppy because they know there is really no repercussions if they do something wrong. Like someone else said, “saving a buck” by medical staff is a real thing. I couldn’t count the times I’ve heard, “Well this (Treatment, drug) is very expensive, we’re required to try these (Two different, probably cheaper meds)before we can approve you for the treatment using the (Expensive,known to work drug/treatment) as per protocol. But for these guys to just skip some simple. recommended blood-work is criminal. I notice nothing is said about where the Drs. went or were even disciplined. I also notice (other vets in the waiting area too) that when you sign in on the kiosks at various clinics, it says “Are you here for your appt. today due to a lawsuit? Yes/No?” WTH?

  10. Just got some new glasses from VA that are useless to me as they distort my view and stress my eyes when I wear them, also the bifocals range is half my old pair of glasses which I still wear. Very careful about what meds I take from VA. Yea, congress knows but don’t care…

    • I went in to get some reading glasses and the doc? jumped my ass cause I didn’t buy my own. He pissed me off and knew it when I stood up and he backed off into a corner. That satisfied me enough and walked out. I’m running out of patience with these assholes.

  11. My husband’s heart valve procedure was contracted out by the VA because the VA didn’t have the doctors nor the proper facility to do the job. Already having stage 3 kidney failure, the private doctor that do the heart valve knowing he had kidney failure and use it anyways. Shot my husband into end stage and on dialysis. His kidneys never returned and he pulled the plug. He died Tuesday, November 6 in hospice. I know I have not only a,medical malpractice suit but wrongful death suit as well. Can’t find attorney willing to take the case.

    • Sorry to hear. Take the energy from your loss and turn it into revenge. There is a lawyer out there. (Maybe Ben can help in some way?). If anyone here thinks I’m bitchin to much today, tuff shit. God bless Kat.

  12. 26 years old. Merritt’s red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets were destroyed by the acid in his blood.
    26 years old.
    Aaron Merritt, a three-tour Iraq & Afghanistan War veteran.
    26 years old.
    VA failed to follow the recommendations of a drug manufacturer to conduct BASIC blood work to avoid blood poisoning.
    The settlement does not admit fault.
    BASIC bloodwork the drug manufacturer recommends to ensure the blood is not poisoned!!!!!!!!
    26 years old.

    Shortly before admission for the ER, Aaron Merritt emailed his VA doctor about his symptoms.

    “I’m also finding it difficult to keep food and water down,” he wrote. “I was wondering if this was something I should be seen for or if I could get new medications to treat this or improve my quality of life.”

    Twenty-Phucking-six years old.

    Never hear about ONE of these damn stories on Veteran’s Day weekend celebrations, discounts, fly-overs, or radio spots about veteran “freebies”.

    • Don’t forget the 10% discount you get at home depot, lowes, and all the other places that give 10% off most of the time for vets, Which I appreciate. But on Vets day, HEY! WE’RE GIVING ALL VETS 10% OFF TODAY!

      • Plus I have to show them a different VA card everytime I go in to their store! Now I show all 3 and they can’t figure out which one to look at! AND when thet can’t figure it out they say “we’ll let you by this time”.

Comments are closed.