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When Nursing Home Abuse Turns Criminal

Our Chicago nursing home neglect attorneys work on civil lawsuits. The civil justice system is distinct from the criminal justice system. In a civil lawsuit the private individual harmed by misconduct (either a resident or their family) seeks accountability from the wrongdoer. That accountability usually takes the form of monetary damages. Conversely, the criminal justice system is society’s way of punishing misconduct generally. When an actual crime is committed the perpetrator may face fines, jail time, and other sanctions.

In the vast majority of cases related to nursing home neglect, civil lawsuits are all that are filed. That is because negligence is generally an insufficient mental state to be guilty of a crime in these settings. In other words, while it may be inappropriate to prevent something like a nursing home fall, the aide who does so did not necessarily intend for the resident to be hurt. In many cases, the individual must intentionally cause harm for a crime to be committed. There is more nuance to the issues of mental states as they relate to crimes, but for the most part, that difference between intentional misconduct and negligence is the main distinction.

Jail Time for Nursing Home Abuse
That is not to say that crimes are never implicated in nursing home neglect cases Recently, New American Media published a story on a case where a former nursing home director faces three years in jail for her conduct that harmed residents at the facility. Specifically, the case centers on a director who illegally prescribed medication to residents as a form of “chemical restraint.” The antipsychotic drugs ultimately proved incredibly harmful to some of the residents. At least three of the seniors in the home apparently died as a result of their being given the drugs illegally.

The defendant in the case pled guilty to one felony related to the drug use. The judge then handed down the three year sentence. Observers note that this is one of the very few times that a nursing home employee faces significant criminal punishments as a result of intentionally misusing antipsychotic drugs.

It would not be surprising if these sorts of cases pop up more and more. That is because there has been greatly increased focused on the misuse of antipsychotics in recent years at both the state and federal level. Whereas past practices allowed these chemical restraints to be used with abandon, elder care advocates have raised the alarm bell. It is simply inexcusable for facility owners and operators to argue that they were not aware of the dangers of these drugs or the need to work on alternatives. Hopefully, with the threat of real jail time and serious criminal punishments on the line, more and more individuals working in these settings will do the right thing and ensure that antipsychotic medication use is limited only to those situations where it is absolutely essential.

If your loved one was given antipsychotic medication which may have caused them harm, be sure to seek out legal professionals for help ensuring accountability.

See Other Blog Posts:

Lawsuit Alleges Kicks for Nursing Home Drug Prescriptions

Fact Sheet on Dangers of Antipsychotics