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Veteran dies 10 days after Prostate Surgery

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I have a question about determining if an error occurred. I have a friend who recently went into the VA hospital to have his prostate removed (cancer). 9 days later he went to follow up appt. and the following day he passed away at home. The ambulance was called and he never regained consciousness and was taken to a civilian hospital. The hospital said they do not do autopsy's for death by natural causes. I guess I never really thought that a 50 year old dying after a surgery would be considered natural causes. The death certificate listed cause of death "Probable myocardial infarction". If the county is not willing to do an autopsy how do you make sure the VA did nothing wrong? They do not make it easy to find out if everything went the way it was suppose to. His wife is left to figure this all out so any info or suggestions would be appreciated. He was 60% service connected: Exercise induced Asthma, and some join issues from a collapsed parachute on active duty. Should he have been at 100% post surgery or is that only for service connected  disabilities surgeries. He was also a Gulf War Veteran (Desert Storm). Thanks in advance for any info.

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That is very upsetting news.

Was he being treated continuously by the VA?

Had he ever been diagnosed with heart disease?

Did he have a claim pending when he died?

Did he have an asthma attack just prior to his death?

If his medical care was from the VA  I am sure they did an ECHO or at least an EKG prior to the surgery.

The surviving spouse would need to get a copy of all of his VA medical records, and will need an IMO, if she feels the VA caused his death.

Although this refers to sports and asthma  it does state   "including previously unrecognized cardiac conditions."


Asthma has recently become more prevalent, more severe, and more deadly. Approximately 4500 individuals die from asthma annually in the United States, an unacceptable number for a condition that can be managed effectively. Sudden death with exercise may result from a variety of causes, including previously unrecognized cardiac conditions. Asthma has also been recognized as a cause of death in association with sports. Recent data indicate those who suffer from mild to moderate asthma are also at risk for asthma fatality. The absolute magnitude of the increase in risk of death from asthma during sports, however, is very small. For this reason, individuals with asthma should not be discouraged from active participation in sports. Rather, this should reinforce the message that asthma is a condition that may be potentially serious, but can, and should be, well controlled with proper management."


Was his service connected asthma listed on the death certificate as a contributing cause?

My husband is dead because of "unrecognized cardiac condition"---- sort of- I mean -The  VA knew he had heart disease, but never told him or me, and it was the immediate cause of his sudden death along with 3 other conditions that they agreed ,under FTCA and 1151, did contribute to his "untimely" death at age 47.

There is the FTCA remedy and also a Section 1151 claim to rectify VA malpractice.Info on those types of claim is here in the FTCA/ 1151 forum.

But only if the medical records reveal malpractice.

And It will be documented in those records. That is how I found out how the VA had malpracticed on my husband.

Of course they don't put it that way in medical records, and in my case one VAMC tried to cover up the VAMC that caused the initial malpractice. 

But It always has a paper (digital) trail.

What type of medication was he on for the asthma?

Was it an inhaler?

This link speaks for itself:


Did they out him on a new type of medication after th surgery? That too could contraindicate other meds he was on.


In part:

"Three common asthma inhalers containing the drugs salmeterol or formoterol may be causing four out of five U.S. asthma-related deaths per year and should be taken off the market, researchers from Cornell and Stanford universities have concluded after a search of medical literature.

They base these conclusions on a statistical analysis of 19 published trials " etc.

Can the widow join us here?


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Thank you for replying Berta...

Was he being treated continuously by the VA?

Yes all his healthcare was done at the VA

Had he ever been diagnosed with heart disease?

Do not believe so she is bringing his med records tomorrow

Did he have a claim pending when he died?

He filed an intent to file so she will be able to continue that

Did he have an asthma attack just prior to his death?

he just collapsed lost consciousness she got him to wake up it happened again and she called 911

If his medical care was from the VA  I am sure they did an ECHO or at least an EKG prior to the surgery.

I am not sure if they did or not will know more tomorrow

The surviving spouse would need to get a copy of all of his VA medical records, and will need an IMO, if she feels the VA caused his death.

That's what I was thinking

Was his service connected asthma listed on the death certificate as a contributing cause?

They did not want to do an autopsy because it was natural causes. It was listed as "Probable Myocardial Infarction"


What type of medication was he on for the asthma? Was it an inhaler?

I will know tomorrow. She said they told him to stop taking his medicine a few days before the procedure and then told him he could restart when he checked out of the hospital  a few days later.


Thanks again for your input

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She will need to substitute herself on the pending claim:


Also the DIC forms have changed and are here:


It might be possible that she could get the death certificate amended to show the asthma as contributing , but I feel that would take an independent medical opinion that should also be geared to assessing whether the VA gave him proper medical care.

I am not sure if the IMO should be done by a cardiologist or a rheumatologist.

Unfortunately asthmatics often have a higher risk for post op complications.

It would be best ,in my opinion, if she could get a strong IMO  opinion that showed ,with a full rationale, that the service connected asthma contributed to his death,following the way these regulations are written:

"The death of a veteran will be considered as having been due to a service connected disability when such disability was either the principal or contributory cause of death. 38 C.F.R. § 3.312 (a). For a service connected disability to be a contributory cause of death, it must be shown that it contributed substantially or materially, that it combined to cause death, or aided or lent assistance to the production of death. In this regard, it is not sufficient to show that the service-connected disability casually shared in producing death; rather, it must be shown that there was a causal connection. 38 C.F.R. § 3.312 (c)(1)."

But a IMO doctor would know best what the medical evidence reveals.


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I need to make a point- due to weather up here I couldn't finish this reply----the other day---

Many times ,what might appear to be a malpractice case, really does not contain medical faults of the VA, and maybe even a IMO doctor would not find they made medical errors.

This is why I brought up the veteran's service connected asthma- as, if that can be found, by medical evidence, as contributing substantially to his death, then direct DIC is far better than 1151 DIC or the difficult FTCA process.

Asthma patients have so many risk factors that this could be VA's defense- however the medical records will reveal if the VA committed medical errors that would warrant a direct SC death,in spite of risk factors.

Also a direct SC death has more ancillary benefits than 1151 deaths. The best ones are the CHAMPVA program, and also Chapter 35 educational benefits.

I received 1151 DIC for many years but had those benefits because of my husband 100% P & T SC disability.

When I reopened for direct SC death,my Chap 35 had run out but they give me a new limiting date due to the direct SC death award. I had paid 6 or 8 thousand to finish my degree- which VA refunded to me due to the new entitlement date. Also I was awarded the REPS benefit and they paid for more funeral expenses.

Since the spouse is so young she might well get better benefits , for CHAMPVA ( my auto/.home owners insurance guy said it is the BEST I could get) as well as taking advantage of the Chapter 35 educational program. I also get two property tax deductions based on my husband's service connected death.

But still that will take a strong IMO by a specialist ,who might find proof of major VA malpractice-than she could file for both direct SC and DIC under 1151 and consider FTCA,if there is still time,and she needs to check her state's Statute of Limits for FTCA cases against the VA.

She also would have to determine if any of the doctors who made medical errors -if they did- are actual VA employees.If they work instead for a contractor, they could fall under 1151 but not under FTCA.






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Too many of my veteran friends have died on the operating table at VA hospitals or shortly there after.

We vets are constantly being used as training aids and guinea pigs at these VA facilities.  I know as it happened to me and a few others at the stinking Temple, Texas VA hospital in 85 and 86 resulting in death of a Korean War vet.

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@Dustoff 11 I agree. The VAMC is a teaching hospital, which is part of the problem. I guess doctors have to learn and practice somewhere before being released into the wild, but they are my last resort when it comes to surgery.

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