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State Hospital Implicated in Report

October 28, 1999

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ A state mental hospital failed to diagnose diabetes in a patient allowed to binge on junk food in the months before he died, a state agency concluded.

The Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute mismanaged emergency care for Skander Najar and failed to ``control his dangerous eating habits,″ which caused his blood sugar levels to worsen and led to pancreas problems that killed him, the state Department for Rights of Virginians with Disabilities said.

The findings to be released this week echoed a confidential internal investigation on the 1998 death by the Falls Church hospital. The hospital concluded Najar’s death was caused by human error, and seven staff members, including his psychiatrist and the on-call physician, resigned in the face of dismissal.

Najar, 26, had symptoms for two days before his death, including blurred vision, dizziness, vomiting and increasing lethargy, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.

The lack of control over Najar’s diet by allowing him to eat in a cafeteria was exacerbated by trips to convenience stores, fast-food restaurants and grocery stores as part of the institute’s plan to reintegrate him into society, the agency said.

An independent consultant wrote in a separate report that Najar’s ``eating behaviors (at NVMHI) can best be described as a kid in a candy store.″

Najar suffered from manic depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder and had been in state mental institutions for 11 1/2 years prior to his transfer to Northern Virginia in March 1998. He died that June.

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