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Medical Examiner: Deceased Patient Shouldn’t Have Had Morphine

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Penny Whitlock, Marty Himebaugh

Penny Whitlock (left) is charged with looking the other way while nurse Marty Himebaugh (right) overmedicated patients at the Woodstock Nursing Center with morphine. (Credit: CBS)

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WOODSTOCK, Ill. (CBS/WBBM) – The chief Cook County Medical Examiner testified Thursday that the man who died under the care of the so called “death angel” at a Woodstock nursing home was intoxicated with a drug that he should have never received.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Mary Frances Bragiel reports, Medical Examiner Dr. Nancy Jones, who is a forensic pathologist, testified in a McHenry County courtroom in the trial of Penny Whitlock, who is charged with looking the other way when an employee allegedly overmedicated patients with morphine.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Mary Frances Bragiel reports

Jones testified that Alvin Rudsinski, 84, died from an excessive amount of morphine, the Northwest Herald reported. An enlarged heart and an autopsy led to the conclusion about the cause of Rudsinski’s 2006 death.

Prosecutors say morphine should never have been administered for Rudsinski.

In opening statements Tuesday, Assistant State’s Attorney Philip Hisock said Whitlock took no action against nurse Mary Himebaugh for her alleged overmedicating of patients, except to dub her the “Angel of Death.”

Whitlock, 62, of Woodstock was charged with criminal neglect and obstruction of justice following a lengthy investigation into six suspicious deaths in 2006 at the Woodstock Residence nursing center. The bodies of three nursing home patients who died during that time were later exhumed as part of a 15-month probe into the deaths.

Himebaugh, 60, also faces neglect charges, as well as charges of improperly obtaining and dispensing morphine.

Neither woman was charged in the deaths of any patients at the 115-bed nursing home, though Hiscock told jurors medical tests show at least one of the patients died of morphine intoxication from being overmedicated.

Also Tuesday, a former nurse testified that she was ordered by Whitlock on Aug. 14, 2006, to give Himebaugh “an unopened bottle of morphine” to administer to Rudsinski, even though he didn’t have a prescription.

Rudsinski died a few hours later.

When she asked Whitlock about the drug and the death the next day, the former nurse, Eleanore Larocco. said her boss dismissed her question, then laughed. “What is this? Five or six now?” she said Whitlock answered.

Another patient, Jean Hannah, died on April 8, 2006, hours after Larocco said she saw Himebaugh come out of her room carrying a morphine bottle.

Larocco and another nurse, along with Whitlock and Himebaugh, were later discussing the death when Whitlock made a stunning remark to Himebaugh, Larocco testified.

“Penny said, ‘I don’t care if you play Angel of Death, just don’t let me know about it,’ ” Larocco said.

Whitlock’s attorney denied that she ever acted improperly or neglected patients.

The Chicago Sun-Times contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire

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