Oakland VA nurse's death ruled overdose
By Adam Smeltz
Published: Saturday, April 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
A nurse found dead in a bathroom at the Oakland VA hospital overdosed on the narcotic pain medicine fentanyl, the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office said.
How Patrick Austin, 47, of Gibsonia got the drug remained a mystery Friday as VA officials continued a joint investigation with Pittsburgh police and stayed mum on details.
“We don't know how he obtained it,” said police Sgt. Ron Griffin.
Austin worked since June 2007 in the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, local VA spokesman David Cowgill said.
A doctor pronounced him dead at 11:19 a.m. Jan. 16 in the hospital on University Drive after employees discovered his body and apparently tried to perform CPR, police reported at the time.
The inspector general's office at the Pittsburgh VA referred questions to national spokeswoman Joanne Moffett in Washington.
She said the VA police and the Pittsburgh VA Office of Inspector General are collaborating in the investigation. VA officials received the medical examiner's report on Friday, she said.
“The case hasn't officially closed, so we don't have further details for release,” Moffett wrote in an email.
Pittsburgh VA leaders will decide after the investigation whether to establish any new internal policies, Cowgill said.
Austin's brother Shaun, 50, of Sarver declined to comment on the investigation. He said his brother loved nursing, music and traveling to islands including Puerto Rico, where he worked in VA facilities for nearly 20 years.
“He really liked helping the veterans,” Shaun Austin said. “He was a really caring person who really enjoyed his job.”
Government health officials approved fentanyl in 1990 to ease severe or chronic pain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Austin's death is attributed officially to toxic effects of the drug. The medical examiner ruled his death an accident.
Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5676 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- One dead, one wounded in shooting at Chartiers party
- Patients denied as donor organs discarded
- Pope Francis inspires incredible optimism
- Film tax credits bill would bump up state budget
- Castle Shannon man accused of crashing way down Pittsburgh street
- Bethel Park man to receive degree from Pitt he earned 64 years ago
- Newsmaker: Rosalind Ross
- Bullied South Fayette student’s case prompts wiretap overhaul legislation
- Legal experts question prosecuting South Fayette boy for recording bullies
- South Fayette mother wants case against bullied son to be dropped
- Man found fatally shot in Larimer a mile away from Homewood peace march