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Paul Kiesel
Paul Kiesel
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Morphine Overdose Killed Army Soldier

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Earlier this year, a Fort Huachuca soldier died of a morphine overdose at the Army base’s medical barracks, an investigation concluded this week, and authoritites are trying to determine who provided the drug, according to the Associated Press.

Pfc. Eli Baker, 22, had just finished boot camp and was still in the process of training at the Central Arizona Army base when he was found dead on January 28 in Fort Huachuca’s Warrior Transition Unit.

The unit provides medical and mental-health support for soldiers wounded in action or for troops recovering from other medical conditions.

Chris Gray, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, said," We have reason to believe that someone supplied him with that morphine, but he was not prescribed that morphine."

That statement issued by the Army must be disappointing to the family of Eli Baker, as 1. It’d be immediately obvious, particularly in the military, to find out whether Mr. Baker had been prescribed morphine (and it took them 11 months to figure this out?) and 2. Unless Mr. Baker had been prescribed the morphine, naturally, someone would have had to given it to him.

The most interesting aspect of the Army’s investigation into what is ostensibly a case of negligent homicide, is what they’ve omitted. They have not suggested or disclosed that the morphine table came from the Warrior Transition Unit. And they have not connected the morphine overdose to the FDA’s three recalls on Ethex Morphine Sulfate tablets, which occurred four months after Mr. Baker’s death. (*Two of the recalls were voluntarily made by Ethex, after the FDA issued the first; the FDA then issued, simultaneously, two more recalls on 17 other Ethex generic products.)

The FDA doesn’t typically mandate a recall on a product unless the agency is fearful of life-threatening consequences, and the FDA has yet to receive any of the recalled lots of Ethex Morphine Sulfate. Does this mean that Mr. Baker’s death was the result of an oversized tablet? No, but unless the Army investigates the Warrior Transition Unit’s stock of medication (and who may have been prescribed morphine at the Army base upon or before Mr. Baker’s arrival), and examine whether or not the facility was stocked with any Ethex products, Eli Baker’s family will lack the closure it deserves and this case will likely go unsolved.