LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - Investigation wasted resources


Since the U-B won't take on the conclusion of this sad story, I guess it is up to me.

In March 2010, a patient was admitted to St. Mary Medical Center unconscious and in acute respiratory failure. After extensive consultation with the patient's immediate family, his ventilator was removed. He was given medications to ease his pain and died several hours later.

An autopsy was performed the next day by a self-acclaimed "forensic" pathologist hired by Coroner Frank Brown. Dr. Carl Wigren's report stated the cause of death to be an overdose of morphine and citalopram. He declared the death an accident and the death certificate filed with the state Department of Health two days later reflected this finding.

Two months later, without additional medical evidence, Frank Brown changed the death to a homicide, altered the death certificate, held a press conference accusing SMMC and its personnel of killing the patient and turned the case over to the Walla Walla Police Department, where it has been investigated by Detective Sanchez. Dr Wigren supported Frank Brown in this allegation.

Dr. Wigren filed a complaint with the Medical Quality Assurance Commission of unprofessional conduct against the attending physician. This opened another state investigation of the care of the patient.

This case has been reviewed extensively. DOH conducted a review in July with results reported in this paper. Treatment that the patient received was reviewed by the head of palliative care at Oregon Health Sciences University. The autopsy toxicology results were reviewed by the former head of the Washington State Toxicology Lab. County Prosecutor Jim Nagel did an extensive review of case law on pertinent medical issues and the available evidence. MQAC conducted a lengthy review of the actions of medical personnel involved.

These investigations are now complete. They are all in agreement. There are no basis for any of the allegations made by Brown and Wigren.

Brown and Wigren had this wrong from day one. Their allegations were not based in fact, science or common sense. They owe an apology to the medical personnel at SMMC for this seven-month ordeal, to the SMMC organization for baseless charges, to the residents of Walla Walla County for wasted resources at the city, county and state level, but most importantly to the family of the deceased, who can now have closure.

Much has been written and spoken of Frank Brown's "compassion" for the families of the deceased in this county and his skills as a coroner. I see no compassion and no skill here, only the arrogance and misguided agendas of two men.

Gary Wentz
Walla Walla


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