- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 6, 2002

ROANOKE (AP) A man who killed himself after reportedly being misdiagnosed with Alzheimer's disease actually may have been suffering from the memory-loss disease, a medical examiner testified.
Jack Ellis, 69, shot himself in March 1998, a day after a psychiatrist told him he had Alzheimer's disease. Mr. Ellis' widow, Claudine, contends that his fear of losing his memory pushed him to commit suicide. She is suing the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salem for $1 million in damages.
William Massello, assistant chief medical examiner for Western Virginia, testified Monday that studies of Mr. Ellis' brain tissue suggested that he might have had Alzheimer's.
But Ed Campbell, Mrs. Ellis' attorney, told U.S. District Judge Samuel Wilson that the case is no longer about a misdiagnosis.
Mr. Campbell said Mr. Ellis was taking nearly 20 medicines before he died a combination that caused him to contemplate suicide and imagine bugs crawling over his flesh. In such a condition, Mr. Campbell said, doctors should have admitted Mr. Ellis to a hospital.
"The problem is, he was sent home with these medicines still in him, these medicines that caused him to have delirium," Mr. Campbell said. "He goes home, and that night he kills himself. The reason he killed himself is because of the delirium."
Mr. Ellis, a retired welder, was told that he had Alzheimer's after complaining to doctors about the powerful steroids that had been added to his heavy diet of medication. Before altering his prescriptions, his doctor asked him to talk to a psychiatrist.
The psychiatrist, Dr. Jeffrey Bader, told Mr. Ellis he had Alzheimer's. After giving the Ellises some literature on dementia, Dr. Bader told Mr. Ellis he could go home. The next day, he killed himself with a shotgun.
Jennifer Shah, the attorney representing the hospital, said Dr. Bader did nothing wrong. Miss Shah said Mr. Ellis denied having suicidal thoughts when Dr. Bader asked, Mr. Ellis showed no signs that he was a suicide risk and his visions of bugs seemed to be over when the Ellises met with Dr. Bader.
"Neither of the Ellises wanted Mr. Ellis to be admitted to the hospital," Miss Shah said. "They wanted him to go home.
"Mr. Ellis' decision to end his own life was not Dr. Bader's fault. He couldn't read Mr. Ellis' mind. He didn't have a crystal ball."

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