Published November 20, 2014
John Demjanjuk's attorney has filed a complaint with Bavarian prosecutors claiming that pain medication administered to the former Ohio autoworker helped lead to his death as he awaited an appeal of his conviction on Nazi war crimes.
In a 12-page complaint obtained by The Associated Press, attorney Ulrich Busch asks prosecutors in Rosenheim to open an investigation of five doctors and a nurse on suspicion of manslaughter and causing bodily harm.
Anyone in Germany has the right to file such a complaint, and Rosenheim prosecutor Juergen Branz said his office is obliged to investigate all such claims to determine whether to open a case.
He refused further comment Wednesday. The main doctor cited in the complaint, whose name cannot be released due to German privacy laws, also declined comment.
The drug named in the complaint, Novalgin — known in the U.S. as Metazimole or dipyrone — is one of the most commonly used pain medications in hospitals in Germany and many other countries around the world.
Demjanjuk's son, John Demjanjuk Jr., noted, however, that it has been banned in the U.S. and many other nations over safety concerns.
"We believe this led to his death, and any foul play should be investigated," he said in an e-mail to the AP.
Demjanjuk, who lived for decades in Seven Hills in suburban Cleveland, was convicted by a Munich court in May 2011 on 28,060 counts of being an accessory to murder on allegations he served as a guard at the Nazis' Sobibor death camp in occupied Poland.
Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk denied ever serving as a guard, saying he had been mistaken for someone else, and died while his conviction was under appeal.
Demjanjuk was sentenced to five years in prison, but was released pending the appeal. He died a free man in a nursing home in the southern Bavarian town of Bad Feilnbach on March 17 at age 91.
Demjanjuk suffered from terminal bone marrow disease, anemia, chronic kidney disease and other ailments. Doctors were unable to determine an exact cause of death from his autopsy but said "there was no indication" of unnatural causes.
In his complaint, Busch said there is evidence that Demjanjuk had been given Novalgin regularly, including the night before his death. He also cites the manufacturer's warnings that such medication should be avoided by patients suffering from blood or kidney problems.
"The prolonged use of Novalgin, given the known conditions of my client, was absolutely incorrect and capable of causing the death of the defendant," Busch said in his complaint.
He also said that, the night before he died, Demjanjuk complained of pain in the stomach area and was given Novalgin by the nurse on duty.
"Had the nurse ... fulfilled his duty and called the emergency doctor immediately, the deceased would have been taken to a hospital and would still be alive today," Busch said.