The family of Xiaoye Wang, who allegedly was poisoned to death by his wife Tianle Li in January, has filed a civil wrongful death complaint against Bristol-Myers Squibb and the University Medical Center of Princeton over allegations that Li obtained the radioactive material thallium that killed Wang from BMS and administered it while Wang was a patient at UMCP.

According to the complaint, Wang’s death could have been avoided but for the “combination of negligent acts” by the BMS and UMCP that allowed Li to obtain thallium. Thallium is a tasteless, water-soluble metal nicknamed “the poisoner’s poison” that has been banned for consumer sale in the U.S. since 1972. Prior to that time, it had been used widely as a rat poison and insecticide, but today it is used in medical circles to help diagnose coronary heart disease through radioactive stress tests.

“A talented software engineer and a loving father of a toddler would be alive today if only one of the world’s biggest drug makers, and an accredited medical center, had just done their jobs,” said Robert Mongeluzzi, an attorney with Philadelphia-based Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett and Bendesky, which is representing the Wang family. “Bristol-Myers knew or should have known that Li was an unstable person who should never have had access to deadly thallium.”

Mongeluzzi also said that the staff at UMCP “should have listened to their patient, who feared for his life. Instead, they enabled [Li] time and access to finish what she had started.”

Wang, who met his future wife when both were students at the University of Pennsylvania, checked himself into the University Medical Center on January 14 with abdominal pain and no feeling in his hands and feet. According to the complaint, he repeatedly told hospital staff that he believed his wife had poisoned him. The complaint accuses the hospital staff of allowing Li unrestricted access to his hospital room until Wang was found unresponsive. It also charges that a nurse had made a prior written warning indicating that the wife was acting in a suspicious manner at Wang’s bedside.

Wang died on January 26 at age 39. Three days later Li failed in her attempt to convince the Middlesex County Court to bar Wang’s family from administering his estate.

#b#Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (BMY)#/b#, Route 206 and Province Line Road, Box 4000, Princeton 08543-4000; 609-252-4000. Elliott Sigal MD, chief scientific officer, president, R&D.

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