Royal Enters Guilty Plea

Med Center Staffer Siphoned Medicine

By Tim Sullivan Hoya Staff Writer

A former Georgetown University Medical Center employee who was fired for stealing painkilling medication from patients in his care plead guilty Friday to tampering with consumer products. Jeffrey Royal, who was fired on Feb. 2 after supervisors discovered him siphoning pain medication from an IV apparatus, now faces a maximum jail sentence of five years.

Royal, who entered his plea to U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler, is scheduled to be sentenced on July 5. Though the maximum sentence is five years, federal sentencing guidelines suggest a sentence of 51 to 63 months, according to Channing Phillips, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office.

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office, Royal, 40, had been released on his own recognizance, but will now be held without bond until his sentencing. The charges stem from an incident in February when Royal, formerly of Kensington, Md., was working as a technician in the intervention radiology department. According to evidence proffered during court proceedings, a clinical manager and a nurse witnessed Royal insert a five CC syringe into medication dispensing tubing and siphon the painkiller fentanyl for his personal use.

Following the incident, the Med Center informed nearly 600 former patients under Royal’s care that they may have been exposed to infectious diseases due to Royal’s actions. They have been advised to be tested for HIV and Hepatitis A and B at the Med Center free of charge. Last month, former Med Center spokesman Paul Donovan said he could not release the results of those tests.

Royal has since tested negative for HIV and Hepatitis A and B. His attorney, Jeffrey O’Toole, did not return two phone calls placed yesterday at his office.

Royal was fired by the Med Center immediately following the allegations. Interim Executive Director of External Affairs for the ed Center Amy DeMaria said that the university was happy with the outcome of the criminal investigation. “Georgetown immediately turned Jeffrey Royal in to authorities after observing criminal behavior, and so naturally we are pleased that he will be held accountable for his actions,” she said.

Following the news of Royal’s dismissal and subsequent arrest, nearly 600 former patients filed a $1.8 billion negligence lawsuit against the Med Center for negligent hiring and supervision practices, as well as pain and suffering. The lawsuit seeks $2 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages per complainant, according to the attorneys for the two groups of patients, Joseph Cammarata (SFS ’80), Keith W. Donahue and Jon D. Pels.

The lawsuit charges that the Med Center acted negligently in failing to perform drug tests on its potential employees, as is recommended by the American Hospital Association. Cammarata said that the case may involve allegations that Royal engaged in similar actions while employed at two other area hospitals, Washington Adventist Hospital in Rockville, Md., and Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md. Following Royal’s dismissal from the Med Center, Washington Adventist performed, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and the state of Maryland, a comprehensive review of Royal’s actions which found no evidence of wrongdoing, according to Washington Adventist spokesman Robert Jepson.

The suit also seeks damages for potential exposure to disease as well as maltreatment during the patients stay in the hospital, when some patients did not receive the correct doses of pain medication following surgical procedures.

When asked what impact the guilty plea will have on the lawsuit, DeMaria, who is handling media relations for both the Med Center as well Georgetown’s attorney, John Buckley (CAS ’69), said that “it is not appropriate to speculate on pending legal matters.” She also said that since Royal’s dismissal, a committee of “senior-level edical Center leaders” is currently deciding whether or not the ed Center should implement drug testing for future employees.

Pels declined to comment on what impact the guilty plea will have on the case, saying that the lawyers have decided to withhold comment until a press conference they have scheduled for Thursday. He said that at the press conference, they will announce “major news which will dramatically affect this case.”

The $1.8 billion suit comes following a recently announced merger between the Med Center and MedStar Health Systems, whereby the university and MedStar will have joint control of the Med Center’s operations, while the Georgetown University Medical School will retain control of its teaching capacites.

The university entered into negotiations with MedStar following three years of consecutive financial losses totaling $203 million. University President Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J., cited the completion of the merger as one of the major reasons why he felt comfortable stepping down from the post at the end of the next academic year.

Related Links

Former Patients File $1.8B Suit (3/17)

Med Center Wants 294 Patients Tested (2/25)

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