Medical director quits

January 14, 1993|By William Thompson | William Thompson,Staff Writer

EASTON -- A doctor who stunned a courtroom this week when he admitted signing blank death certificates for Hartley Hall Nursing Home has resigned as its medical director.

A key prosecution witness in the murder trial of former Hartley Hall nursing director Marjorie Karen Alpaugh, Dr. Edward J. Colwell resigned yesterday after the trial ended when Deputy State's Attorney Joel J. Todd agreed to drop the charges.

Mrs. Alpaugh was on trial in connection with the death of patient Maidie Lang Shay, 91, who authorities said was given an illegal and lethal dose of morphine medication almost a year ago. Problems with the credibility of Dr. Colwell's testimony forced Mr. Todd to abandon the Alpaugh case.

The doctor's testimony about signing blank death certificates shocked many in the courtroom, including Judge Theodore R. Eschenburg, who called the practice "absolutely incredible." But the physician did nothing illegal, said Mr. Todd.

W. A. Lee Clarke III, Dr. Colwell's lawyer, said the physician resigned from the staff of Hartley Hall and the Manokin Manor nursing home in Somerset County because he felt the furor over his testimony would impede his ability to serve patients.

In a related matter, Mr. Todd said he will not investigate Hartley Hall, despite questions raised during the trial about how workers handled patients' medication.

"We have uncovered no credible evidence that they've done anything wrong," he said yesterday.

A state health official said a survey team of nurses will review the nursing home's medications policies.

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