A man entered Johns Hopkins Hospital with a gun early Tuesday morning and is believed to have fatally shot himself inside an emergency room bathroom, an incident that came days after the medical center held a national symposium on safety inside hospitals.
The man, who was 69 years old, was found dead with a gunshot wound to his chest shortly after midnight, Baltimore police spokeswoman Sgt. Sarah E. Connolly confirmed. Police would not identify him or provide additional details of the shooting, saying it was under investigation.
The man's wife identified him as Donald G. Wizeman, a tourism and marketing consultant who was living in Virginia Beach. She said she did not know what led him to take his life and was trying to gather details after police called her Tuesday morning to break the news.
"He went on a business trip, and he was supposed to be back last night," said Kay Sherfick Wizeman. "I thought he was going to check on a job, and had no clue this was going to happen."
A spokeswoman for Johns Hopkins, in a statement, said only that "patients and employees are safe and emergency care was not disrupted."
The emergency department is on the first floor of the Orleans Street side of the Hopkins Hospital campus, and those entering the area quickly come upon an information desk. A security official stood guard to the side Tuesday, and several other security officials were visible in surrounding areas.
Four years ago, a man from southwestern Virginia whose mother was receiving treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital, went to a top floor of the Nelson Building with a gun and shot the doctor before turning the gun on his mother and himself. The incident led to an hours-long lockdown.
Witnesses said the man, Paul Warren Pardus, blamed the doctor for paralyzing his mother during surgery and shot him with a semi-automatic handgun concealed in his waistband.
Last week, Hopkins hosted a national symposium on how medical professionals can stay safe as they care for vulnerable patients. Experts at that symposium said it can be difficult to restrict guns entirely.
James G. Hodge Jr., a professor at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University who presented at the Hopkins symposium, called this week's incident "unfortunate" and another example of hospital violence prompting many institutions to take measures to boost security.
"It's disturbing to know that days after we convened this event … yet again here's another example of it within the same grounds," Hodge said. "These issues may become even more prevalent nationally."
The frequency of gun and other violence in health care settings across the country has prompted increased use of metal detectors, visitor screening, and, at least, planning for emergency situations, Hodge said. The more predictable the events become, the more exposure hospitals have to legal liability for injuries, he said.
Recent incidents include a man taking his on life in the lobby of a New Jersey hospital emergency room last month. In Long Beach, Calif., a hospital pharmacy employee killed two colleagues in 2009. An Akron, Ohio, man fatally shot his wife in a hospital in what authorities described as a "mercy killing" in 2012, according to news reports
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Ohers say the events remain too rare and unique to prompt major changes, such as metal detectors.
Jay Wolfson, a patient safety researcher at the University of South Florida, said health care providers should focus on communication with patients and family members to detect risks of violence, and not on random acts.
"This is not something we can predict, and the best thing we can do is console those who were directly affected," Wolfson said. "We need to avoid overreacting as institutions."
Wizeman lived in Myrtle Beach, S.C., for 30 years, his wife said. He was involved in tourism and golf ventures in Myrtle Beach, and played a key role in efforts to connect businesspeople in Japan and the southeastern United States, according to an online biography.
According to the Digital Media Law Project and the Myrtle Beach Sun News, he was hit in 2009 with a $1.8 million judgment after being sued for defamation for comments published on a blog called "Myrtle Beach Insider." A settlement was eventually negotiated.