If you have read any of my blogs you know by now that I was not raised around my relatives. I had 2 years of my life where I lived near them and got meet and get to know a few of them. One set of relatives was my Dad’s youngest sisters’ family. Her oldest son was already married so I didn’t get to see him very often. The next son, Darrell was a few months younger than I, and we became fast friends. Her youngest child, a young girl was a late in life surprise for my Aunt and her husband. She was born when my Aunt was 44 years, quite old for the early 1960s! Her name was Madonna Rose, and she was quite a handful! I was 9 years older than her and at the time I wasn’t used to having young kids around.
When we moved away from Missouri and made California our home we were cut off from all family by my mother and her mental illness. For 5 years we had no contact. When my Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer I went behind my mother’s back and contacted my Aunt. She and Dad had always been very close. When we knew my Dads’ time was short, I invited my Aunt to come to visit. She did and they had a great time catching up. Of course, I had to pay the penalty for my actions after she left.
Fast-forward about 30 years. When I had begun my genealogy journey, I concentrated on finding my “older” ancestors and didn’t even think of trying to find the living ones. About 10 years ago I was searching through Facebook for people who lived in the small town in Missouri that my Aunt had lived. I saw that one of my Aunt’s granddaughters had an account, so I contacted her. We became “friends” and we exchanged information on our families. I was heartbroken to discover that my Aunt and Uncle had passed away. But I wasn’t prepared for the news that Madonna Rose had died 9 years before. My cousin began to tell me the story of what had happened.
Madonna had graduated from High School and got married. She had a son and after a few years, the marriage ended. She remarried and soon had a little girl. 9 years later Madonna was told she had colon cancer, and she had surgery. Her prognosis was very good and was told with chemo she should have an excellent chance of beating it. She was a fighter and did everything she was told, however, her condition began to decline. On August 21, 2001, at the age of 37, she lost her hard-fought battle.
You may ask why is this blog called “It was murder” when she died from this horrible disease? Here is the rest of the story……
In 1990 Robert Ray Courtney, a pharmacist in Kansas City, Missouri began purchasing pharmaceuticals on the gray market and using them to fill prescriptions at his pharmacy. In time he began diluting prescriptions to increase profits. In 1998 an Eli Lilly sales representative noticed Courtney was selling three times the amount of the cancer drug Gemzar than he’d bought. Lilly initiated an internal investigation but found no evidence of illegality and closed the investigation without further action. In early 2001, this representative voiced his concerns to a nurse who worked for Dr. Verda Hunter, an oncologist in Courtney’s building, who was also one of Courtney’s customers. Hunter noticed that many of her patients were only suffering mild side effects, and their condition didn’t seem to be improving. Hunter had medication that had been supplied by Courtney tested. That test showed that the sample contained less than one-third of the drug prescribed, and upon receiving the test results back, Hunter immediately notified the FBI. Hunter submitted seven additional samples for testing by the FDA’s forensic chemistry lab. Tests on those samples revealed that they contained as little as 15 percent of the prescribed dosage, and at most only half of it. They immediately knew that they had to move quickly. While health care fraud cases normally take years to build, the investigators knew they didn’t have that long.
Investigators persuaded Hunter to help them in a sting operation. Hunter gave Courtney several prescriptions for fictitious patients. After Courtney mixed the drugs and sent them to Hunter’s office, federal agents had them tested. The samples contained less than half of the prescribed dosage, and in some cases contained less than one percent of the active drug. On August 13, 2001, federal agents raided Research Medical Tower Pharmacy. A day later, Courtney surrendered to authorities and was charged with one count of adulterating and misbranding medication.
In 2002, after initially being caught diluting several doses of chemotherapy drugs, he pleaded guilty to intentionally diluting 98,000 prescriptions involving multiple types of drugs, which were given to 4,200 patients, and was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison. He is currently serving his sentence Littleton, Colorado.
My cousin, Madonna was one of the 4,200 patients who had received this diluted drug and she was not given the chance to effectively fight for her life. It was murder!
I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter