Hospital sued after poisoning death

A Philadelphia hospital is facing a lawsuit from the relatives of a man whose chemist wife is accused of poisoning him with thallium.

Xiaoye Wang, 39, a computer engineer also known as Alex Wang, died on Jan. 26, 2011, at University Medical Center of Princeton, NJ. He had been admitted on Jan. 14 complaining of abdominal pain and a lack of feeling in his hands or feet.

His wife, Tianle "Heidi" Li, 40, a chemist at Bristol Myers Squibb, was charged with murder for allegedly slipping him thallium, an odorless, highly toxic metal, both at their home and as he lay in his hospital bed. A wrongful death suit filed by relatives of Wang in New Jersey's Camden County Superior Court names the drug company, the hospital, and six doctors.

Robert Mongeluzzi, JD, an attorney with Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky in Philadelphia, represents the family and said at a news conference that Li was accused of killing her husband with the radioactive substance that is employed to diagnose coronary artery disease but if used improperly can cause a slow and painful death. She was charged with giving Wang thallium over two months until he died in the hospital. She has pleaded not guilty to murder and is being held in lieu of $4.1 million bail.

The lawsuit alleges that Li obtained the highly toxic drug from Bristol-Myers Squibb, which has several research sites in New Jersey. Court papers claim the company failed to impose rigorous safety and security controls on dangerous drugs such as thallium to guard against unauthorized access.

The lawsuit says Wang told doctors on the day he was admitted to the hospital that he and his wife were expecting to be divorced. Court documents quote a note that a doctor placed in his medical chart that said Wang thought he was being poisoned and asked to have his urine tested for signs of poison. "The fact that he is accusing his wife of poisoning him may suggest the presence of a paranoid syndrome, although one has to first exclude the possibility of any kind of poisoning," the doctor wrote.

Rather than take Wang's complaints seriously, "They allowed Li unrestricted access to his hospital room until Wang was found unresponsive," Mongeluzzi's firm said in a statement.

Another note from the medical chart, quoted in court papers, said Wang's wife acted strangely during a visit. "Wife should be monitored if comes to visit and patient shouldn't be left alone," the note said.

Source

• Robert Mongeluzzi, JD, Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky, Philadelphia, PA. Telephone: (215) 575-2989. E-mail: rmongeluzzi@smbb.com.