Coroner defends autopsy report on woman’s death in hospital's ER — (Herald Times)

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Herald Times

EARLIER: Man still wants answers on wife’s death in hospital’s ER

By Dann Denny 331-4350 |

December 17, 2011

Vigo County Coroner Dr. Roland M. Kohr said he stands behind his finding that Leanne Watson died from a prescription drug overdose rather than a drug she may have been given in Bloomington Hospital’s emergency room, as her widower, Jeff Watson, alleges.

Kohr, a pathologist at Terre Haute Regional Hospital, said when conducting Leanne Watson’s autopsy in 2008 he enlisted the services of AIT Labs, a forensics toxicology laboratory in Indianapolis.

“It’s a reputable, independent toxicology lab,” Kohr said. “Its report found an overdose of an antidepressant, but not a trace of the drug (Ativan) that Mr. Watson believes she died from. I can’t ignore the lab’s finding, and I have no reason to doubt it.”

Kohr admitted the hospital’s ER report says Ativan was given to Leanne before she died.

“That put me in a dilemma,” he said. “According to the ER report she was supposedly given that medication, but the toxicology lab did not find any trace of it in her system. Mr. Watson wants me to ignore the toxicology lab result and attribute his wife’s death to a drug that did not show up on that report. I did not manipulate the facts. I based my report on the lab findings.”

Watson, a Spencer resident and professional bear trainer, said the prescribed antidepressant drug Leanne was taking is called Cymbalta.

“Dr. Kohr is correct in that Cymbalta is an anti-depressant, but it is also prescribed for the treatment of fibromyalgia, a chronic pain disorder from which Leanne suffered,” he said. “However, whether or not the Cymbalta was prescribed for depression disorder or for fibromyalgia is a moot point, unless of course Dr. Kohr is attempting to imply that Leanne took her own life by overdosing on prescription drugs while in a state of depression.”

Watson says when Bloomington Hospital asked Kohr to do the autopsy report, it was a conflict of interest because Kohr is the son of Roland E. “Bud” Kohr, the former president and CEO of Bloomington Hospital.

“There was no conflict of interest,” Roland M. Kohr said. “I have never practiced at Bloomington Hospital and have testified against Bloomington Hospital in civil litigations before.”

His father, Roland E. “Bud” Kohr, said, “I have been retired for 151/2 years and no longer have much to do with what is decided at Bloomington Hospital. To suggest a conflict of interest is a long, long reach — in the category of the ridiculous.”

In his autopsy report, Kohr listed Leanne Watson’s cause of death as polypharmacologic intoxication caused by an overdose of prescription medications; but a second autopsy report, conducted by Joye M. Carter of Marion County, said Leanne Watson died not from a drug overdose but from severe obstructive pulmonary disease with subacute pneumonia complicated by atherosclerosis. In 2009, Monroe County coroner Jerry Reed listed obstructive pulmonary disease as her primary cause of death and atherosclerosis as a contributing factor.

“If Dr. Kohr is correct in his opinion that Leanne died from polypharmacologic intoxication, a drug overdose, then I guess he must admit that the staff of the Bloomington Hospital was unsuccessful in making the same assessment or diagnoses while Leanne was in the ER for an entire hour,” he said. “Nowhere in the ER record, before or after her death, is it recorded that any medical professionals suspected that Leanne was experiencing or exhibiting symptoms consistent with that of someone suffering from a drug overdose.”

Kohr said he had no explanation for why Carter’s report listed a different cause of death, but suggested she may not have requested a copy of the toxicology report.

Kohr said he has never been contacted by an attorney regarding his autopsy report on Leanne Watson.

“I have no recollection of Dr. Carter ever contacting me to request a copy of the report,” he said. A phone call to Carter to ask about the matter was not returned.

“Mr. Watson may be an expert when it comes to grizzly bears, but he is not an expert in forensic medicine,” he said. “I respect his concern for his wife, but him telling me how to conduct an autopsy would be like me telling him how to handle his bears.”