The family of one veteran has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs for failing to timely diagnose and treat sepsis resulting in death.

Richard Williams checked himself into a VA hospital in Columbia, Missouri, on December 27, 2016. His symptoms were shortness of breath. Williams died two days later.

While Williams was in a state of respiratory distress, the clinicians responsible for his care ordered a necessary test as routine rather than urgent. A six-hour delay resulted that ended with Williams’ death.

Williams ultimately died from anoxia secondary to laryngeal edema and sepsis complicated by drug intoxication from Haldol and lorazepam. Erica Smith, Williams’ daughter, filed the lawsuit on December 27 on behalf of her father’s estate.

The lawsuit states, “The failures of the combined responsibility of the internal medicine team and the psychiatry team to work collaboratively to reassess medicinal therapies that might need to be changed given the patient’s declining physical condition, in addition to labeling the obvious signs of sepsis and respiratory distress as a ‘behavioral condition,’ lead to Mr. Williams’ untimely death.”

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Williams is one of many veterans who died in the care of VA from unaddressed sepsis. It is a repeated problem, especially during holiday seasons or weekends, where the agency understaffs its hospitals resulting in veterans not seeing staff doctors as frequently as required by the standard of care.

Six months ago, I reported on another veteran in Missouri who died from sepsis after a VA clinician improperly placed a catheter in the man’s penis. Gilbert Harris, 52, died from sepsis as a result of his penis injury.

My contacts with finance experience within VA medical centers have reported the agency intentionally draws back on medical interventions on weekends to keep costs down. As a result, many veterans die or are injured as a consequence of cutting corners on the backs of sick, often disabled, veterans.

RELATED: Did VA Police Beating Cause Veteran’s Death?

The frequency of lawsuits against Kansas City VA or other Missouri-based VA facilities makes me wonder if I should move my law practice.

Apparently, no amount of lawsuits has been able to pressure that area’s VA facilities into complying with the minimum standard of care. Don’t veterans deserve more?

If you have a story about sepsis or treatment delays over the holiday season, please let me know below.

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13 Comments

  1. What are the family chances of getting restitution for their loss, apparently it’s more important to cut staff during the holidays then render the necessary care our veterans need regardless of the holidays, cancellations are also a problem because the doctors are planning their days for trips instead of their priorities, Congress needs to enforce the that VA have the staff to provide top notch care that Veterans deserves or allow them to seek medical care at their nearby hospital

  2. Rise and Shine Veterans and Disabled Veterans who reads this email your Senators or Representative contact the Veteran Affairs Committee passed your belief how improve Veterans Health Care and Spread my words to your friends and no excuse don’t won’t listen and don’t say working the on the WALL Remember God never be second Veterans never surrender…Semper Fi.

  3. Same thing happens in the biggest hospital nearest to me that isn’t a VA Hospital only more often. Private contractor for the County. Privatization at work. or is it just blind eye to save tax dollars at Congress so the 1% can get a tax break to push up the equity markets in a bubble that will bust and evaporate the false wealth. Rush on the up turn and depression on the down turn. What is wrong with the flatter market of the 1950’s, ’60s, & ’70s when we had higher upper marginal tax rates.

  4. I’d like to see some future updates on this and others to see how well or how far such lawsuits got, or pitched out. Will the daughter be treated like others who dare to challenge the VA way or their machine?

    Kinda amusing to call state officials and others to hear about not being the only one with major issues with the VA, officials, the machine, etc. One among hundreds keeping them all so busy…. then call back or to another rep or official to be told all is well or they haven’t heard any issues or problems happening. Move along nothing to be seen here or to be reported. Nothing negative allowed.

    This would not make the news in my state or town. Guess it shows that some states aren’t totally on news lock-down, censored beyond belief, and some aren’t that afraid YET to give someone/entity who needs it a bit of a black eye for truth to be known. Or to show there are more than likely deeper issues going on behind the scenes.

  5. Places of business, any business, will work only a skeleton crew over any given holiday. That in and of itself is nothing new and normally not an issue as long as there are solid contingencies in place to handle any event that arises. THAT is the core issue here IMO.
    Far too many of our population, including those in leadership positions, just plain do not work through the thought processes necessary to plan for any variety of outcomes for decisions, on any day handed them.
    Umm! I almost forgot, they usually also demand loyalty.
    @T,
    I have to wonder if the lack of reporting has more to do with the brown nosed puppy panting in D.C.!

    • Rosie. I think from my experiences the news black-outs and censoring is top to bottom, bottom to top, and fully supported by all in local, state and federal offices. It’s part of the grand country ruining agendas. 1984 real news and truth is not wanted and the enemy of many.

      Around twenty five years ago local news and paper came out and reported our news and info would be monitored and sifted by town/county officials with full cooperation and support from all media to local colleges including their journalist academics. Not a peep from the sheep, just from me. They “would decide what we need to know”… or not, or “not for public consumption.” That includes every issue you can think of, area planning, policing, news, any projects, environmental contamination, special animal rights secrets, any corruption, mafia thuggery, nepotism, negative reports from hospitals like the major spread of hospital diseases like Sepsis, nursing home abuses, and simple hand washing issues with those in health care. It ceased. Thirty/forty years ago we would hear the names of MDs in local hospitals (nothing much publically about the VA) responsible for un-healthy habits and such…. not today. Same with vets going to civilian hospitals with issues of the sort for any hope for better treatment, wound care, infections from surgeries, for less travel, and healing from such unsanitary or unhealthy conditions.

      The list of things going un-reported is very long. Epidemic proportions and beyond that;
      VA, complaints against the state, med boards, “professional” misconduct, etc.
      HIV/STDs. High to ridiculous rates and hidden.
      Hospital born, spread illnesses. Super bugs. Various infections causing high mortality.
      Hep A to Z. Very bad.
      Suicides. Very bad.
      Very high above normal cancer rates, specific.
      To infant mortality/defects. Much more.

      So bad here our epitaphs/tombstones are censored or refused by law and rules supposedly. I couldn’t put “I am buried face down so the world (or my town) can kiss my ass.’ (Being cremated anyway but leaving a stone in the family plot) Again the cliche…” Sorry sir nothing negative allowed.” “You don’t want to give our community a bad image do you?” Errr, hell yes I do. How about a short curse on the area? “No sir sorry (chuckle).”

      So when I read stories about those like Richard Williams I am normally left with more questions about the history and care than is given. Being around 81 yrs old was he in home care or nursing home? Visiting nurses? Social workers? Strictly VA care or civvy too? The who (all), what, why, hows, and all screw-ups. Etc. Is the daughter wins will she get a grand and have to sign a gag order or what?

  6. @Windguy,
    Generally, anyone reporting to other than VHA emergent care with an internal issue will undergo blood labs at that visit, and that will show any possible infection. At VHA? Here’s a couple pills for your symptom(s), call your primary…

  7. Obviously I never got to the point where I died from sepsis, but I was warned that it could easily happen. This occurred after I was wrongly prescribed antibiotics, by a nurse that was filling in for my doctor due to him taking emergency leave. The antibiotics caused me to get a digestive superbug. The superbug resulted in me being prescribed more heavy-duty antibiotics and this destroyed my digestive microbiome. I nearly died and was one day from saying b-bye. From this time on, my life as I knew it, my career, over. Five years later I’m still dealing with the consequences. Yeah I’m not happy about this, but what are you going to do? Stay healthy.

    Peace out

    • TLC. another vet from this board recommended MMS and DMSO for my digestion trouble. it’s been a miracle. no prescription needed, can self dose to your tolerance, and you can see digestion trouble ease up pretty fast. with in a few days, and now a few weeks later, omg, i can eat food again!

  8. “Williams ultimately died from anoxia secondary to laryngeal edema and sepsis complicated by drug intoxication from Haldol and lorazepam.”…….. I’d be willing to bet (A Lot of $$$) that the VA’s RESPONSE and FOCUS will be something like- “The Veterans death was more likely than not caused from abusing Haldol and Lorazepam, we will IMMEDIATELY add these to our increasing list of drugs we won’t prescribe to Veterans anymore for their own safety, that we take very seriously! We will start an investigation into the respiratory distress, shortness of breath, laryngeal edema, sepsis, a necessary ER test done as routine rather than urgent not being done, labeling the obvious signs of sepsis and respiratory distress as a ‘behavioral condition’, the lack of any reassessment medicinal therapies that might need to be changed given the patient’s declining physical condition, and lack of any regard and compassion to the deceased Veterans health in the very near future.- Thank you for your service.

  9. Maybe the article in “Public Citizens News” of November/December 2018 is related to this extremely poor ‘treatment’ of another Veteran. It is about the “CLOVER” Trail regarding sepsis and it’s treatment regimen. It was written by Rhoda Feng. It clearly lays out a Trial of purposeful neglect of Patients to look for an outcome presumed to occur. If you have the time,Mr. Benjamin Krause to peruse it, you may find it o be quite informative and upsetting. It is in Volume 38, NO. 6 issue, thanks.

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