May 5, 2012

AARP Joins Antipsychotic Drug Suit

by Levin & Perconti

The nation’s leading organization advocating directly on behalf of the country’s seniors has recently joined a nursing home neglect lawsuit related to the facility’s dangerous drug use. The underlying issue is one that each Chicago nursing home neglect lawyer at our firm frequently rails against: antipsychotic drug prescriptions. The class-action lawsuit specifically alleges that nursing home officials gave the powerful drugs to residents without the senior’s informed consent or that of their family members.

The California lawsuit claims that the state’s regulations were violated by the facility’s drug policy. In particular the law requires a nursing home to get consent from the appropriate party and to verify that the doctor giving the prescriptions has explicitly received that consent. However, attorneys in the suit claim that the defendant-doctor did not actually obtain the consent himself but instead relied on nursing homes to do it. This short-cutting would have been a violation of the law enacted to keep residents safe from unwanted medical intrusions.

The situation is actually two separate suits, one against the nursing home and one against the doctor. A nursing home neglect attorney working on behalf of the injured residents and their families explained that “The nursing home is literally the one that is putting the pill in the mouth and they are doing it without permission.”

There have been other class-action lawsuits around the country related to antipsychotic drug use. Yet, this is one of the first in which the AARP has intervened. The organization’s involvement will likely ensure resources are properly put into the effort, perhaps setting an example to other facilities throughout the country to change their protocol to ensure laws are followed and resident well-being is prioritized.

Of course this particular suit is related to an issue that is growing in important throughout the country. Our Illinois nursing home neglect lawyers frequently discuss the local residents whose lives are adversely affected by unnecessary or downright dangerous prescription drugs. Antipsychotics are popular among some because they may make residents easier to control—a form of chemical restraint that has serious ramifications of the quality of life of these seniors.

Of particular importance is the need to ensure residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s do not receive the drugs unnecessarily. Beyond simply affected these resident’s ability to engage with others around them without drug effects, for residents with degenerative cognitive conditions, the drug use may actually increase risk of death.

Consent issues are commonly implicated by this dangerous drug use. Because of the vulnerable nature of the residents, there is somehow a misunderstanding that being in a nursing home means that residents automatically consent to having drugs administered or in other ways lose some basic rights to make decisions about their own care. That is not the case. Seniors and their families are not ceding basic rights related to medical decision-making when they pay a facility to provide care to a vulnerable senior. When those consent rights are violated, the family members have the ability to hold the facility accountable for their misconduct.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Medication Errors Pose Particularly Serious Risk to Seniors

Steve Levin Interviewed For Story on Antipsychotic Drug Use in Nursing Homes