- Associated Press - Sunday, February 19, 2017

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Federal and state investigations are underway into the choking death of a man with later-stage dementia at the Oklahoma Veterans Center in Talihina.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs have launched separate investigations into the Jan. 31 death of 70-year-old Leonard Smith, formerly of Sapulpa. Smith died in the nursing home’s locked-down, special-needs unit.

A report from the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office about the cause and manner of Smith’s death is still pending the results of toxicology tests, the Tulsa World reported Sunday (https://bit.ly/2ljNQSK ).

It is the second Talihina resident’s death to be investigated in recent months. Vietnam veteran Owen Reese Peterson died at the Talihina Veterans Center on Oct. 3 after he was found with maggots in a wound.

Federal officials banned the Talihina Veterans Center from admitting new residents following Smith’s death, a ban that was later lifted, state officials said.

John Carter, chairman of the governor-appointed Oklahoma Veterans Commission, has said it was his understanding that Smith “had a long history of ingestions of things perhaps that were not edible and this was not passed onto admissions when he was admitted.”

But ODVA officials have said they could not confirm that information because of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPPA, which safeguards the privacy of patients’ medical information.

Leonard Smith’s aunt, Sapulpa resident Eunice Harger, told the newspaper Smith did not have a history of swallowing non-food items before moving into the Talihina center in January 2014.

“I took care of Leonard almost three years before I had to put him in there. In all of that time, he never swallowed or wanted to eat anything that was inedible,” Harger said. “This has upset me so bad - and not just about Leonard. It’s all of these other men down there that are not getting the care that they are needing.”


Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide