A Seattle Weekly cover story last December about the Camp Liberty, Iraq, massacre of U.S. soldiers by John Russell, a deranged Fort Lewis sergeant, also focused on other puzzling non-combat deaths, including soldiers dying in their sleep. Now Georgia author Cilla McCain and San Diego neurologist Fred Baughman, who helped us with the cover story, have probed further into the mysterious body count. In a column today at Huffington Post, McCain reports that "if you conduct an internet search with the phrase 'soldier found dead' the results are staggering. Narrow it down even further by including the phrase 'unexplained' and you will begin to get a glimpse of what some would call an epidemic."
They were separate deaths, intertwined: In addition to suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Andrew had the added difficulty of dealing with the loss of his brother in combat. The Corps' solution was to treat him with what turned out to be lethal prescription drugs.
When the Whites received Andrew's autopsy report, the official cause was listed as "accidental intoxication of Seroquel, Paxil, and pain medication." Andrew had not committed suicide, nor did he take his medication in a manner it was not prescribed. Death, as it turned out, is a potential side effect of Seroquel. The doctors and the pharmaceutical company knew that, but nobody told Andrew, despite the fact that he was experiencing many of Seroquel's most serious side effects....
The Whites then learned of three other West Virginia soldiers who died in their sleep in 2008. "We thought it must be a reaction to biological warfare," said Stan. "We thought they must have been exposed to something in Iraq and now it is killing them."
Dr. Baughman, a critic on the use of anti-psychotic drugs, undertook a study of the soldier deaths and determined "sudden cardiac death" to be the cause. As he said in a press release last month, "All were diagnosed with PTSD. All seemed 'normal' when they went to bed. And all were on Seroquel (an antipsychotic) Paxil (an antidepressant) and Klonopin (a benzodiazepine). They were not comatose and unarousable," as in many suicides, he said. "These were sudden cardiac deaths."
The military doesn't necessarily agree, but the Pentagon is failing its mission to properly investigate such deaths and determine the causes, whatever they may be, McCain writes:
Between the VA medical doctors and psychiatrists Andrew was going to for help, none tried to assess the effectiveness of these drugs on his PTSD symptoms. They just kept increasing the dosage as if he were a guinea pig in some twisted lab experiment. Whether sudden cardiac death, polypharmacy, or suicide, a prescription tracking system could be a major step toward preventing tragedy.