Doctor serves prison time after deadly oxy overdose
KING GEORGE, VA (WWBT) - What happens when the person you trust to look out for your health is actually feeding your addiction?
At just 41 years old, Veronica Wentzel of King George County died from an accidental overdose of the painkiller oxycodone.
Four years after her death, her Virginia doctor went to prison, admitting to writing prescriptions for oxy outside the bounds of medicine.
Veronica and Duane Wentzel met through a friend and had an instant spark.
"There was the Veronica that was the sweetest person in the world, caring, very loving," remembers Duane.
But six months into the relationship, Duane realized there was another side to Veronica. A side she hid well.
"I used to hide her meds from her because I could see that she was taking too many," he said.
Duane would put them in the dryer, a cabinet ... anything to help her stop.
Diagnosed as being bipolar and suffering through painful illnesses like fibromyalgia, Veronica became hooked on drugs such as Percocet, Diluadin and Hydromorphone.
"Her drug of choice was oxycontin," said Duane.
The addiction took a toll on the marriage. There were trips in and out of rehab.
"I'd already sort of fallen and I'm not somebody who runs away from problems," he said. "I'm the type of guy of hey, we'll go through this together."
And then Veronica shopped around for a doctor who prescribe more opioids, finding Dr. Nibidita Mohanty.
"Doctor Mohanty just laid out everything that she wanted," said Duane.
Mohanty graduated from the Medical College of Virginia at VCU. She was the former chief of Medicine at Stafford Hospital. And the feds say she ran a pill mill, writing excessive prescriptions for oxy to multiple patients.
"It's hard to fight the addiction. But it's even harder when the people that are supposed to be there looking to help you and to protect you from yourself kind of turn a blind eye," said Duane.
Duane went to Mohanty and told her his wife was abusing the drugs.
"She looked at me and said, 'Sir you are not my patient. I cannot talk to you about this,'" Duane said. "I said 'I don't want you to talk to me about this, I'm telling you my wife is abusing the medications you're giving her.'"
Duane says finally he had to walk away, threatening Veronica with divorce. It didn't stop her addiction. Within a few months she overdosed and was rushed to the hospital. Mohanty treated her.
Then, a few weeks later, Mohanty prescribed Veronica more oxy.
Veronica overdosed and died in a friend's bathroom the next day.
"Her body just couldn't take it and finally gave up," said Duane.
He now carries the kind of guilt that often consumes surviving family members.
"I just felt like I gave up on her," he says through tears. "That that's the hardest thing to deal with."
He doesn't want another family to go through this kind of pain.
"The biggest thing is, just don't look the other way. I feel like I gave up on her a little bit. I chose a career and my daughter over her life."
Mohanty faced 95 charges and ultimately pleaded guilty to three felonies. She was sentenced to four years in prison and was released last month.
"How do you feel about Doctor Mohanty getting out of jail?" NBC12 asked Duane.
"If she's learned and, I've not talked to her so I don't know that she has, but I can only hope and pray that she has learned. If so, than I'm OK with it (her release). I pray that she gets into a place where she can tell other people don't fall into this trap," said Duane.
Duane says that at the time of Veronica's death he didn't know he could report her doctor.
He's sharing her story because he wants other families to know that you can report a medical professional to the DEA, the FBI, the Virginia State Police and the Virginia Board of Medicine.
Other stories in the series:
- Doctors who flood the country with opioids face little scrutiny, repercussions
- Some top opioid providers raise red flags
- Doctors get rich from controversial drug maker as patients become addicts
- Richmond's DEA works to crack down on pill mills
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