Trust me, I'm a doctor 

A charismatic doctor and trusted trainer is accused of abusing military students

click to enlarge This will only hurt a little — or not. Hagmann is accused of bizarre practices. - TANYA SHAW JEFFREY
  • Tanya Shaw Jeffrey
  • This will only hurt a little — or not. Hagmann is accused of bizarre practices.

Over the course of decades, Dr. John Henry Hagmann has trained thousands of medical personnel and soldiers in battlefield medical procedures. According to a damning report by the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU), a government medical school that trains health professionals for the military, he's also abused his power in myriad ways, including performing unnecessary rectal exams on military medical students, administering dangerous drugs to them and draining their blood to test for shock.

While he's held classes around the world, some of the alleged abuse took place in Colorado.

Hagmann was awarded at least 229 federal contracts since fiscal year 2008, worth nearly $10 million. Classes often included controversial Live Tissue Training (LTT), a type of training that uses live animals to demonstrate medical procedures. LTT has long drawn fire from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Since the report of human abuse went public earlier this summer, Hagmann's Virginia medical license has been revoked and the federal government has reportedly stopped awarding contracts to Hagmann's company, DMI (Deployment Medicine International), until further notice. A call by the Independent to the Department of Defense yielded little, and questions about follow-up actions were redirected to different departments over a series of weeks but were never answered. While Hagmann, whose age is listed as 59 in recent media coverage, had drawn scrutiny — and at least one investigation into his behavior — in the past, it appears USU paid the naysayers little heed until recently. In a testament to DMI's popularity, the Department of the Army awarded it a $24,725 contract in October 2013 for "human model training" in Aurora — even as the USU investigation into DMI's behavior was underway

The contracts didn't stop there. The Arizona Republic reports that in April 2015, the Arizona National Guard contracted with DMI for combat medical training.

While Fort Carson offers similar trainings to its soldiers, base spokesperson Dani Johnson says she cannot find any current or past contracts with DMI.

While USU's investigation uncovered apparent abuse of soldiers, the loudest voice speaking out against the company over the years has been PETA. The animal rights group has long called for an end to LTT, which is regularly employed by DMI in its classes.

LTT uses live anesthetized animals, usually pigs or goats, to demonstrate lifesaving battlefield medical techniques. Rules are in place to protect animals from pain and guide the classes, but graphic PETA videos have shown that animals have at times been improperly anesthetized and treated inhumanely.

A recent video, reportedly of a DMI training, shows participants tearing the guts from a live pig. The Department of Defense has greatly curtailed the use of LTT because studies show that life-like mannequins offer equally valuable training. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, and Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Georgia, both introduced legislation this year aimed at phasing out LTT.

PETA's attorney Director of the Laboratory Investigations Department Justin Goodman says he wasn't shocked to hear that Dr. Hagmann stands accused of abusing soldiers.

"Ultimately, it doesn't surprise us that much," he says. "Given that this is a man and a company that get paid to take live animals into the woods and shoot them in the face, and stab them to cause massive bleeding, and impale them."

PETA recently sent a letter to Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman urging her to look into the Hagmann investigation of abuse against humans and violations of state laws "and, if corroborated, to take appropriate action and levy all penalties permissible by law against Hagmann and DMI."

In his recently publicized December 2013 report (which initially didn't draw attention because it was administrative in nature), USU president Charles Rice says he was tasked with investigating DMI's classes — known as Operational and Emergency Medical Skills or OEMS — for serious misconduct in September 2013. Among the allegations: "Dr. Hagmann committed numerous invasive procedures on students in the OEMS-TA courses without informed consent as outlined by the [American Medical Association's] policy."

USU did not return a phone call seeking further comment.

Reuters reports that the abuse in question took place in 2012 and 2013 at sessions in Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado and Great Britain.

Without informed consent and without a prescription or documentation, the report states, Hagmann administered Ketamine (an anesthetic), Versed (a benzodiazepine that slows the nervous system), and Morphine (a narcotic pain reliever) to students, along with "large quantities of alcohol." Hagmann also reportedly improperly questioned a student about sexual issues, performed a rectal and genitourinary exam on a student (the length and thoroughness of which "freaked him out"), and allowed and encouraged students to perform rectal exams and to place a Foley catheter in him. He reportedly dispensed medication in Colorado without a state medical license.

One student, who reported being given alcohol, Ketamine and midazolam (a central nervous system depressant), said he was then given a tibial interosseous infusion — an injection into the bone marrow — that later required suturing. Another student reportedly was given three doses of Ketamine and then not assisted by Hagmann when he began continuously vomiting. Additionally, Hagmann is accused of performing "shock labs," in which students' blood was removed to test for shock and then pumped back into them.

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO
  • File photo

Reuters has investigated the Hagmann story extensively, finding that "school officials had known of Hagmann's teaching methods for more than 20 years." In fact, one July article notes, three faculty members sat in on a course in 2012 but did not report what they saw despite witnessing practices that had been banned by the school.

In other coverage, Reuters also reveals Hagmann has been accused of seeking sexual gratification from the procedures — which he has denied — and that "two intoxicated students were subjected to penile nerve block procedures."

A June Reuters article, covering Hagmann's hearing with the Virginia Board of Medicine, quotes board chair Kevin O'Connor as saying, "What we're seeing is way off the charts. Quite honestly, I'm speechless."

A Washington Post article from the same time reported that the six hours of testimony at the board hearing was "so shocking that board members sometimes drew their hands over their gaping mouths." The Post also reported some of the testimony given by unidentified students.

"A medical student identified as 'Patient B' testified that after some alcohol, Hagmann took pictures of the student's genitals and asked lots of sexual questions related to the fact that the student was not circumcised," the article states. "The student also said he performed a rectal exam on Hagmann, which the doctor requested and filmed. Patient B was one of several students who testified by telephone."

In addition to the more outrageous allegations against Hagmann, the report also indicates that there was a long-term "formal and informal" relationship between USU and Hagmann, which lacked proper oversight and control by the university. That led to the apparent violation of government ethics and travel regulations in addition to abuse of students.

Specifically, the university acknowledges that it accepted travel funds from DMI inappropriately and allowed DMI to use government classrooms free-of-charge for clients.

Hagmann graduated from USU in 1980. While serving in the Army, he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, and by the mid-1980s he was a USU faculty member. It was during this time period that Hagmann developed the battlefield medical course known as OEMS, which would eventually become the backbone of DMI after his retirement in 2000. Even at the university, colleagues and supervisors — whose names are redacted in the report — called him a "colorful rogue" who was "very charismatic." He wasn't known for being a strict rule-follower.

In 1993, he was formally investigated by USU. While some of those documents have since been lost, the "investigation indicated OEMS students were given Nitrous Oxide, Lasix, triazolam, Benadryl. Scopolamine and ethanol were used on one occasion."

The investigation caused "grave concerns" for the dean, but the OEMS course was popular, and Hagmann continued teaching as concerns remained.

Over time, Hagmann was stripped of many of his duties, apparently leading him to retire and start DMI. Initially, he offered his OEMS courses to USU students at no charge as an "elective" in the summer. This was apparently allowed because of Hagmann's close relationship with USU, despite the fact that his gifts to students of tuition, airfare and lodging violate regulations.

Still, the classes are thought to have gone on until the mid-2000s. A precedent had been set that wasn't questioned.

In fact, the report states, "Revelation of the unlawful conduct came to light only when a member of the [Office of the General Counsel] overheard a conversation."

The university made attempts to create a more formal agreement with DMI in 2012 and 2013.

However, the proper agreements were not in place when students traveled with DMI, and dates and locations of the classes were sometimes erroneous or out of order. That included the trip to Colorado. Hagmann reportedly covered many costs for the trips, violating government regulations against gifts. In violation of government ethics, Hagmann also reportedly used students as workers for DMI.

"The University's culpability casts a wide net," the report states. "The [USU] personnel were in the dark about what was going on, did not understand the wrongdoing, or simply did not think to go to their ethics counselors."

The Virginia Board of Medicine revoked Hagmann's medical license in June — a decision for which the doctor was not present. His attorney, Ramon Rodriguez, recently said he plans to appeal. In a July 31 emailed statement to the Independent, Rodriguez says Hagmann informed the board multiple times that he was out of the country for the hearing and needed "additional time to prepare for the hearing, as well as time to obtain positive statements in his defense and gather missing evidence that had previously been requested from government agencies but had not yet been provided, amongst other things." (A recent visit to the DMI website revealed that the company was seeking comments in support of Hagmann. Later, the request disappeared.)

"All Dr. Hagmann sought was a fair and impartial hearing of the facts where he could be present to answer the Board's questions, provide witnesses and defend himself," Rodriguez wrote. "... Dr. Hagmann remains profoundly disappointed concerning the ruling made by the Board and intends to appeal what appears to be a clear violation of his constitutional right to due process."


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