LEBANON — Staff at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center told police they suspected that family members of a woman who died on Jan. 27 tampered with her medications and possibly induced a fatal overdose, according to police reports released this week.
Investigators started looking into the death of Susan Massey, 67, of East Corinth, Vt., on Jan. 27 after staff concerns were brought to police. Months later, her death was deemed not to be suspicious by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office.
“Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jennie V. Duval has now determined that Ms. Massey’s death was the result of complications of disease, and that her manner of death was natural,” the Attorney General’s office stated in April.
According to the heavily redacted reports from several Lebanon police officers, staff at the hospital were concerned when a drip bag of fentanyl meant to last 100 hours was nearly gone within an hour, and the locked cabinet where the drugs were kept was open when staff came in to change the medication.
Massey was in the hospital with a terminal illness, and had been brought to the intensive care unit and expected to die sometime around Jan. 25, according to the reports. She’d been in the hospital since Jan. 20, according to the reports. Massey had been placed on supportive care, meaning she was to be made comfortable in her remaining hours and given pain medication, according to the report.
The family’s aggressive behavior with staff sent up red flags, staffers told police. One of Massey’s sisters reportedly became upset as that weekend continued, and Massey continued to live, staff told police, according to the reports.
“(The sister) made comments to staff that her sister was ‘not dying fast enough,’” according to Lebanon Police Detective Callie Barrett’s report.
This sister was described by staff as being difficult, and she tried to get nurses to give Massey more medication, according to the reports.
On the morning of Jan. 27, a nurse set up a fresh 50 cc bag of fentanyl for Massey at about 8 a.m., according to the reports. By 9 a.m. all but 6 cc of fentanyl was used, and staff told police they noticed that the cabinet where the drugs were kept was open, according to the reports.
At least one of Massey’s relatives is a Dartmouth-Hitchcock nurse and would have known the combination to unlock the drug cabinet, according to the reports. Staff told police they were concerned family members would try and increase the amount of fentanyl Massey received, according to the reports.
Assistant Attorney General Jeff Strelzin said Tuesday that Massey did not die from a a fentanyl overdose.
“There’s no evidence that fentanyl played any part in her death at all,” Strelzin said.
The investigation is still considered ongoing. Whatever happened to the fentanyl that appears to have gone missing could still be revealed through the investigation, but Strelzin said that had not yet been determined.
“If we uncover any evidence of any fentanyl diversion, we will forward that to appropriate authorities,” he said.