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Patient Wanted To Die, VA Testimony Reveals

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Patient Wanted To Die, VA Testimony Reveals

By John Barton

DETROIT—A man who prosecutors say was murdered in the Ann Arbor VA Hospital told his doctors and nurses he wanted to die, according to testimony in federal court here Wednesday.

John M. Herman; a retired Lenawee County machinist, expressed the death wish as he lay in great pain in a fifth floor hospital ward on July 29, 1975.

Herman, 73, was running a high fever as an infection spread through his body complicating kidney problems, diabetes and alcoholism stemming from a lifetime of drinking a six-pack of beer and a half-pint of schnapps daily.

Both Herman’s legs had been amputated the year before, and on July 29th, doctors placed him on the seriously ill list.

THE NEXT DAY, Herman was found dead.

Two nurses, Filipina Narciso and Leonora Perez, are on trial for causing Herman’s death by injecting Pavulon, a potent muscle paralyzer, into the intravenous tubing dripping nourishment into the seriously ill man’s body.

The two former intensive care unit nurses are also accused of murdering one other man and poisoning seven hospitalized veterans with Pavulon during July and August, 1975.

The trial began its 23rd day today before U.S. District Court Judge Philip Pratt and a 16-person jury with more testimony from medical experts concerning Herman’s health.

IT WAS ALSO revealed in court Wednesday that the sick man may have received a powerful antibody prescribed by Herman’s doctor to fight a potentially fatal infection.

Dr. Alan Cubre said he prescribed the drug because he was concerned about a serious infection which had worked its way into Herman’s bloodstream.

But a check of Herman’s voluminous medical records, which have already been admitted as evidence in the trial, showed that if the drug was ever given no mention of its administration was made in the medical charts.

“Mr. Herman was ill,” Cubre testified in response to questions from Asst. U.S. Atty. Richard L. Delonis, “but his condition was relatively stable. I didn’t expect him to die.”

UNDER CROSS-EXAMINATION by Edward R. Stein of Ann Arbor, one of Perez’s lawyers, it was revealed Her man told Cubre and members of the nursing staff he wanted to die.

“And, Doctor,” quickly followed Michael Moran of Ann Arbor, one of Narciso’s defense attorneys, “do you believe that when a patient wants to recover, that can help a doctor in his treatment?”

“I believe it would,” Cubre responded.

“And you indicated that in addition to all those other (health) problems, this patient wanted to die?” Moran asked.

“THAT IS CORRECT,” Cubre said.

Earlier, the jury leaned forward attentively as Julie Porter, a nurse who worked in the ICU with Perez and Narciso, testified FBI agents told her Dr. S. Martin Lindenauer, the hospital’s chief of staff, ordered probers to limit their investigation to nurses.

Porter said she was “interrogated and harassed for over four hours" by two FBI agents on Sept. 11, 1975, less than a month into the federal investigation of mysterious breathing failures and deaths which swept through the Fuller Road hospital that summer.

“I was told it was going to be one of us on the afternoon shift,” Porter testified. “I asked why not doctors and medical students? I know that some of them were never questioned."

PORTER TESTIFIED that only nurses were being questioned because FBI agents had orders from Lindenauer “not to harass his doctors.”

Lindenauer, who was on a sabbatical in Europe when the investigation began, labeled Porter’s accusation “silly.” Lindenauer said he returned to the hospital on Sept. 1, and “didn’t even talk to an FBI agent for the first three weeks I was back.”

The FBI agents who Porter says interrogated her were James Riley of the Ann Arbor office, and Otis Archey who is now assigned to the FBI academy in Quantico, Va.

Neither could be reached for comment.

BUT OTHER investigators said they were never instructed to “ignore any one particular group at the hospital as potential suspects.”

Porter said she hired a lawyer immediately after the interrogation session, and has refused to speak with authority ever since. The attorney sat in court Wednesday listening closely to her testimony.

Asst. U.S. Atty. Richard Yanko, apparently rankled by Porter’s accusation, jumped to his feet for re-direct examination of her testimony.

“Are you saying,” Yanko demanded in a voice etched with what sounded like a combination of scorn and disbelief, “that in the investigation of this case, doctors were eliminated as suspects because of orders they were not to be harassed?”

“That’s what I was told,” Porter snapped.