Autopsy report confirms veteran's cause of death in Oklahoma

By ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: May 12, 2017

TALIHINA, Okla. — A 70-year-old dementia patient at a state-run veterans home died from choking on a plastic trash bag, an autopsy confirmed.

Leonard Smith, 70, was a living in a special-needs unit at the Oklahoma Veterans Center in Talihina, the Tulsa World reported.

On Jan. 31, He choked to death after being given food, fluids and medication. A medical provider later found that Smith had a plastic bag lodged deep in his throat.

Oklahoma State Department of Health investigators determined that the facility "failed to provide sufficient staff" to protect Smith's safety.

"It's just — this is crazy," Christine Cornwell, Smith's niece. "To have him there and that far away, we couldn't go see him every day or every week with families and day-to-day living and him with dementia. To have this happen, it's just neglectful, and they could have prevented it."

The center's officials have said that four of the nursing home's employees have been reported to their respective licensing boards for possible disciplinary action in the case.

"We are still awaiting a decision from the licensure board," Shane Faulkner, a spokesman for the center, said Thursday.

Smith's death occurred just four months after the death of another resident who was discovered with maggots in a wound.

Smith served as a radar technician in the U.S. Navy for five years during the Vietnam War.


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