Murder in the Intensive Care Unit
The Investigation Resumes
Dr. Stephen Weitz retired from his neurosurgery practice in 1998. Thirty years later he says he does not remember a lot of the details regarding the heparin incidents at Einstein Medical Center. He is not even sure how many of them there were, or how many actually died from the unprescribed dosing. But even after all this time, a man who is used to dealing with death still has disturbing memories of something "that horrified me when it happened." He confesses, somewhat reluctantly, that this re-examination into the Einstein ICU deaths has been particularly painful and unwelcome. He would have preferred not to suffer the memories in such a public way, making it "just as horrible as it was back then." Nevertheless, Dr. Weitz would be greatly relieved if the murders were solved.
Three other neurosurgeons at Einstein in 1977 who had been questioned by investigators about the heparin deaths refused to discuss the investigation with a journalist either now or in thefuture.
Jim Romer, the Assistant Hospital Administrator at Einstein in 1977, remembers that ADA McKeon and Detective Jimmy McNamee brought back all the hospital files on the deaths which were then locked-up in Administrator Art Ricklin's office. When Romer assumed the top job a two years later they were still there and when he left in 1989 they had gone untouched Art Ricklin died in 1997. ADA McKeon described Romer as the "traffic cop" at the hospital and had his fingers on the pulse of operations and knew everyone who worked there. "He was," said McKeon, "indispensable to our investigation."
Romer got a call a few years after leaving from his replacement asking him what was in the boxes. Romer told him, and the man-in-charge had them moved over to the hospital's medical records. Romer says the hospital is under no obligation to keep them in perpetuity, and that after five years they were probably destroyed. Present Director of Public Affairs Pamela Adkins confirmed Romer's assertion. She says the files can not be found and were probably disposed of. Other than that revelation, the hospital could provide no additional information that would have any bearing on the case.
Romer distinctly remembers the case, "how couldn't he?" Romer asked rhetorically. The case could have done irreparable harm to the hospital's reputation. Although fuzzy about the number of deaths he remembers it being more than one, possibly five. It had to have been several deaths since one or two would not have raised an eyebrow and never would have merited a criminal investigation.
Romer remembers a lot of the details of the case but can't recall names of any of the victims, but he knows the names of the suspects. And he isn't telling. Romer is uncomfortable about divulging the names to the press since no one was charged and the case was dropped. After much discussion with this reporter Jim Romer did agree to give up the names if he got the go-ahead from the current Bronx DA, Robert Johnson. The district attorney, however, declined to speak on the record about the 30-year-old case. His Public Affairs Director Stephen Reed said he wouldn't speak to the press about a case that preceded his tenure (he joined the office in 1978).