Marine Dies in VA Hospital from Opioid Overdose, No One Knows How

August 7, 2017 Updated: August 7, 2017

The wife of a deceased Marine veteran is demanding answers as to how her husband was able to overdose on opioids while in a VA hospital.

Hank Brandon Lee was 35 when he died in March at the Brockton campus of the Boston VA healthcare system.

He died of an overdose by the synthetic opioid fentanyl. Patients entering the clinic are checked for drugs upon entrance, and the hospital said they didn’t prescribe fentanyl to him nor find it on him, according to The Enterprise newspaper.

“You have video cameras, where is the video?” asked Lee’s widow,  Jamie-Lee Hasted, according to the Boston Herald. “What happened? Let me try to get some type of closure.”

The hospital has yet to offer a detailed explanation.

“Sadly, Lance Cpl. Lee was a victim of the opioid epidemic that kills nearly six people daily in Massachusetts,” said Boston VA spokesperson Pallas Wahl, according to the The Enterprise. “Lance Cpl. Lee suffered a fatal overdose of fentanyl while a patient at the Brockton campus. Fentanyl was not prescribed to any patient within our inpatient psychiatry unit, and Lance Cpl. Lee had no personal visitors during his inpatient psychiatry stay.”

On March 4, Lee was being checked on every 15 minutes by hospital staff. There was nothing out of the ordinary until he was found unresponsive at 5:30 p.m.

Lee suffered from post traumatic stress disorder after seven tours in Afghanistan. He was disabled after an incident with an improvised explosive device, The Enterprise reported.

Lee was under lockdown at the time of his death, which accounts for the constant attention by VA staff. It also means any visits were closely supervised by hospital staff, according to the Boston Herald. This leaves many questions about how he may have gotten drugs in or who might have supplied him with drugs. He had a history of substance abuse, The Enterprise reports. His widow said he used drugs and alcohol to cope with anxiety, depression, and hallucinations.

Wahl did hint at what may have happened. The spokesman said the ward where Lee was saying was locked but is “not a prison,” according to The Enterprise.  He also said “fentanyl is so potent that lethal quantities might be too small to detect on a search.”

Lee is survived by his wife and three kids.