Monday, October 30, 2000

Hospital didn't act on fears

OSU allowed resident to practice

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Ohio State University investigative files indicate officials were suspicious of Michael Swango during the last few months of his time as a resident there, but they allowed him to practice anyway.

        The reports were made public by the university last week in response to a request by The Columbus Dispatch, the newspaper reported Sunday.

        Mr. Swango began serving four life sentences this month in a federal prison after having been convicted in the deaths of one patient at Ohio State's hospital and three deaths in 1993 at a federal veterans hospital in Rockport, N.Y.

        He pleaded guilty this month to administering a fatal injection on Jan. 14, 1984, to Cynthia McGee, a 19-year-old patient at Ohio State. He also was investigated by police in five other deaths at Ohio State that occurred in January and February of that year.

        The files indicate Mr. Swango learned in January 1984 that the university was planning to dismiss him. That was the same month that patients on his rounds at Ohio State began to die in unusual numbers.

        In addition, the files confirm that Ohio State Medical Center officials did not view Mr. Swango's actions as a criminal matter until he had left the university and been arrested in Quincy, Ill.

        Mr. Swango came under suspicion at Ohio State after being accused in February 1984 of putting a toxic substance in a patient's intravenous line, the files show. Initial reports by two patients and a student nurse were reviewed by university medical supervisors, but police were not contacted.

        Instead, medical administrators decided to end Mr. Swango's residency after he completed his internship in June. Until then, medical supervisors were ordered to keep him under close watch.

        At Children's Hospital that spring, Mr. Swango “was watched very closely in the emergency room and (during) his care of patients,” former surgical resident Tom Vara later told police.

        Dr. Vara told police that Mr. Swango was angry and resentful once he found out he was being dismissed.

        Dr. Vara was one of 55 doctors, 188 nurses and several top administrators interviewed by OSU police in early 1985 after Mr. Swango was arrested in Illinois for the nonfatal poisoning of six paramedics. He was imprisoned, but later held medical positions in Virginia, South Dakota, New York and Zimbabwe.


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