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AARP Attempts to Halt Nursing Home Abuse

Sadly, horrific cases of nursing home abuse and neglect continue to surface throughout the United States. Most recently a notably large class action lawsuit was filed in California against the Ventura Convalescent Hospital. The lawsuit alleges that systematic prescriptions of anti-psychosis drugs were administered to patients without their informed consent. Chicago nursing home lawyers at Pintas & Mullins are highly experienced in matters pertaining to such abuse and neglect.

This class action is intimately connected with a separate lawsuit filed against the attending physician at the Ventura nursing home. It is alleged that the physician illegally relied on the nursing home to obtain the patient’s consent, when California law mandates that the physician must obtain the consent himself.

Evidencing the magnitude of this litigation, the immensely powerful advocacy group AARP joined the case in an effort to aid in the prosecution of both the hospital and the physician. Their participation appears to be part of a larger effort to deter nursing home abuse and neglect by avidly prosecuting and punishing such behavior. The more public and larger the award, the more likely it is that nursing homes will rigidly follow the law. Not only is litigation costly, it also may have a damaging effect on a nursing home’s reputation.

The issue of consent for any medical treatment, with the possible exception of emergency procedures, is of the utmost importance in nursing homes. This is because many of the patients are not mentally or physically able, due to the prevalence of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia in these institutions, to provide the physician with the requisite intent. Thus, these elderly individuals are extremely susceptible to nursing home abuse and neglect.

In this particular case, both the doctor and the hospital assert that California law only recently changed to require the actual physician to obtain direct consent, instead of relying on the consent obtained by nursing home staff. If the court finds this to be true, it could release the defendants from liability for consent obtained prior to 2011. Conversely, AARP attorneys reject this defense, arguing that it is a disingenuous effort to escape liability.

Additionally, the physician makes a broader policy argument that epitomizes the consent debate. He argues that imposing such stringent consent requirements on physicians inhibits their ability to promptly treat nursing home patients. As a result, he asserts, it is the patients themselves that are hurt.

While this argument does have some merit, it conveniently fails to address the usage and effect of anti-psychosis medications that are the subject of the lawsuit. According to M.D. Leonard Holmes, anti-psychosis medications have no discernible effect on medical treatment, but are only used as a means to harness individuals’ personalities and better control patients. Thus, the usage of these medications is never medically urgent and medical necessity is never an excuse to bypass the requisite intent mandated by California law and regulations.

Further, current studies published in US News and World Report have concluded that the prolonged prescription of these medications results in dangerous long term side-effects. The future medical problems these medications may cause make it even more important for informed consent to be obtained.

Nursing home abuse and neglect can be difficult to detect, but if you have any suspicions or inquiries, you should contact the experienced attorneys at Pintas & Mullins as soon as possible to protect your legal rights and ensure that your loved ones are receiving the care they deserve.