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Air Force nurse charged in deaths of terminally ill

Associated Press / March 18, 2009
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SAN ANTONIO - An Air Force nurse has been charged with murder for allegedly giving lethal amounts of medication to three terminally ill patients in his care over a month last summer, military officials said yesterday.

Captain Michael Fontana, 35, was formally charged Monday by the Air Force with deliberately giving three Wilford Hall Medical Center patients lethal doses of medication, and with conduct unbecoming an officer for allegedly changing a medical record for one of the patients.

The Air Force began investigating after another staff member at the San Antonio hospital discovered irregularities in Fontana's administration of medications, which may have resulted in the death of a terminally ill patient, Air Force spokesman David Smith said.

The investigation, which began in August, revealed that two other patients in Fontana's care in July may have received lethal doses of medication. Fontana, an intensive care unit nurse, was removed from duty as soon as the irregularity was reported. He continues to work in the hospital but is not allowed contact with patients or records, Smith said yesterday.

"He has been deemed not a flight risk and has been at work every day" since being relieved of duty, he said.

Wilford Hall, at Lackland Air Force Base, is the Air Force's largest hospital. It serves military personnel and retirees and provides emergency and trauma care to some civilians.

Relatives of Fontana's alleged victims were notified of the investigation, Smith said. He declined to provide any details about them, saying only that they were "end-of-life terminally ill patients" and not believed to be veterans of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Smith declined to speculate on a motive but said that to his knowledge, the patients had not requested assistance to end their lives.

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