Iowa Methodist Medical Center to Settle Fentanyl Theft Lawsuits

Iowa Methodist Medical Center leaders have decided to settle lawsuits from scores of patients who suffered needless pain because a hospital employee stole their liquid painkillers and replaced the medications with water.

The lawsuits were filed by 255 people who were patients at the Des Moines hospital in 2016 when pharmacy technician Victor Van Cleave worked there for seven weeks. Van Cleave, who was addicted to opioid drugs, was fired after admitting he used hypodermic needles to drain liquid fentanyl and hydromorphone from vials.

The lawsuits were scheduled to go to trial Aug. 19 in Polk County District Court. But the hospital’s owner, UnityPoint Health-Des Moines, decided against having jurors determine how much money the former patients deserved.

The powerful opioid drugs were to be used to ease the pain of patients, including people who had undergone surgery or given birth. But Van Cleave admitted to stealing the drugs to feed his own addiction, and replaced them with sterile water. Medical staffers then unwittingly injected water into patients who needed pain relief.

The amount paid to each patient under the settlement will be confidential, the judge wrote in his order postponing the trial. If a trial were held, any awards determined by the jury would be public.